In this book of short stories, Keith Abbott has produced something closer to a novel. All of the stories are about the same group of people, and they are chronological, following the characters for 10 years, beginning when they are high school seniors in the early 1960s in a small town in Washington state. Classifying this as stories relieves the author of the task of structuring a novel.
And relieves him in some cases of writing genuine short stories. Several do not stand alone, the later stories benefiting by previous acquaintance with the characters.
The title expresses the feeling of life at that time in America's back forty. It comes from a poem by Jack Spicer: "We are a coast people / There is Nothing but ocean out beyond us. We grasp the first thing coming."
Eighteen-year-olds, also, tend to grasp the first thing coming whether it is marriage or college or the Army. One very effective and moving recurring theme in the stories concerns the boys who weren't college material, who went into the military after high school. In that place and at that time, they leave for Vietnam without their hometown people knowing what is going on there, and return from it to people who have no idea what they have been through.