The Right Solution by Mark Falstein
Chicago, August 1968: a hot town. The Democrats are gathered for their national convention to nominate a candidate for President. Thousands of young people are in the streets to protest America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. Nightly assaults by heavily armed police and National Guard are resulting in hundreds of injuries.
On the front lines is Larry Nemiroff, an idealistic but naïve medical student. He is one of of a small corps of volunteer medics committed to treating the injured, under that banner motto of his generation, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” But what is the right solution? For Larry the question is personal as well as political. His girlfriend, Claire, has recently dumped him, as he sees it because he is not sufficiently committed to the causes that animate her and others among their peers. In chaotic circumstances Larry meets an appealing older woman, a London-based journalist and a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, who is in Chicago to cover the convention and the protests for a British newspaper. When he learns that she is hoping to obtain an interview with a celebrated Black Nationalist who is running for Congress, Larry hatches a plan to bring them together, enlisting the help of his uncle Jack Stern, a labor lawyer and a fixer in Democratic politics. It is Larry’s hope, whether he admits it to himself or not, that facilitating the interview might help persuade the lively reporter with a haunted past into his bed.
The Black Nationalist turned politician is Malcolm X. The reporter is Anne Frank.
“The Right Solution” is thus a reimagining of history, a “what if?” tale bringing back to life two celebrated individuals who died well before their time. Over the course of the novel Larry leads us on a frenetic tour of Chicago’s streets and neighborhoods, joins a protest march that turns violent, is beaten by police, thrown in jail, and indeed helps bring about Anne’s interview with Malcolm. It is what Larry learns in his encounter with these two luminaries and with Anne’s subsequent revelations about her wartime ordeal and miraculous survival that leads him to consider what “the right solution” means to him and conditions his final reckoning with Claire.
Year first published: 2023