Richard W. Kelly’s Times … They Are A Changin’ is an emotional novel following the lives of a baby boomer and his wife.
Growing up in America during the ’50s, Bobby Gunkel felt honored to be part of a family where his parents’ bond was strong. Yet, he also longed for his own connection to someone. As an adolescent, he becomes friends with a girl named Brenda, but wishes for a more romantic relationship with her. Then, an unexpected altercation with Brenda’s drunken, abusive father causes Bobby and Brenda to run off, eventually marry, and begin to build a life for themselves.
The story recounts typical marital trials for the couple, including the joys of new parenthood, but Kelly also focuses on a changing 60s’ society. From Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech, to housing issues and integrated schools, Kelly allows readers to see differing perspectives via the central characters. Bobby often feels slighted in the world, particularly in the job market, due to the new wave of affirmative action. By contrast, Brenda defends the idea of equality for all. Whereas Bobby feels he could never be colorblind to race, Brenda feels a commonality with minorities and hopes to explore a career beyond being just a housewife and mother. Ultimately, Kelly shows us a flip-side of Bobby’s character with his feelings against the Vietnam War.
While Brenda and Bobby provide an interesting perspective on the era, the book suffers from several flaws. The premise is rather common, and the ending is deeply unsatisfying. Kelly makes use of an unusual, supernatural/spiritual premise, which is jarring, given its lack of previous foundation in the story. The text also includes misspellings and missing words that require attention.
This is a simple story that blends themes of young love, marital ups and downs, and the changing times. But with its atypical ending, readers might find the sudden break in the story’s overall fluidity a bit disconcerting.
Also available as an ebook.