Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor

by Colson Whitehead

Hardcover(Library Binding - Large Print)

$32.95 View All Available Formats & Editions

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Sag Harbor 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 137 reviews.
vivico1 More than 1 year ago
They say if you don't get into a book in the first 50 pages, it's probably not for you. I gave it 80 pages. I wanted to like this book. I liked the characters in the beginning, and the trip down memory lane but...it kept on walking down that lane, relying on touching something that might make us reminisce long enough to just keep going. I need more than that. I need a plot, to know a story is going somewhere, internal or external but going somewhere. This to me after that many pages, was still in the same place. I became bored and the characters also began to bore me, so I had to give it up. Nice writing style, but not my cup of tea.
Mytwoblessings More than 1 year ago
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead isn't a book I would typically have chosen at the bookstore to read. So I'm glad I joined in the Barnes and Nobles First Look Book club experience which exposed me to this story. It is truly a coming of age story during the 1980's. The story struck a chord with me, because even though I was 26 at the time versus Benji's 15, his experiences brought back many memories from that period of time, plus when I was his age. The music, the special handshakes, ditching your best friend for a date, trying to impress the opposite sex, sibling rivalry and of course, trying to fit in. Benji's story not only explores the life of a teenager trying to be a teenager and fit in, but all the issues of family, friends, race and social life. The story is interesting, humorous, thought provoking, heart rendering at times and I highly recommend it.
jclay26 More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderfully written coming of age story. The prose is thought-provoking, humorous, and engrossing. The author uses humor to effectively bring important issues to the reader's consciousness. The author brings the reader back to the 1980's and all the quirky happenings of that time; New Coke - need I say more. We also get a view into the issues that race and class present for teenagers just trying to learn how to fit in to such a complicated world. Also important is the realization and subsequent respect of our history and what generations before us went through and accomplished so that we may live as we do today. It is coming to terms with/recognizing that things we take for granted now were fought for and a price was paid by those who fought for them. The book starts out somewhat light-heartedly and then slowly weaves in the darkness that comes with family dysfunction and alcoholism. It is a well-rounded, funny, and sometimes heart-breaking story of growing up in a world full of choices and consequences.
rosemaryb More than 1 year ago
Colson Whitehead's coming of age novel manages to step back in time to 1985 and catch a year in the life of an affluent black student that will resonate with readers young and old. Benji Cooper is 15, lives a life many would envy. "A Cosby family" with a prewar classic 7 in New York City, Benji has a father who is a doctor and a mother who is a lawyer. And like other affluent families, Benji spends the summer on Sag Harbor in a neighborhood where blacks and whites live separate lives. Whitehead manages to to take us back to a year when life is still sweet for Benji who is coming of age and is handed the luxury of a summer for the most part free of parental supervision. Sag Harbor is an enjoyable read that manages to accurately depict a pivotal year in the life of a young man seeking to learn about girls and himself and how he fits in. The author expertly draws a picture of what life was like for the token black in prep school who gets to escape to a community when every family consists of African-American professionals. So take a trip down memory lane back to 1985 and relive all those moments along with Benji. You won't regret it no matter how old you are!
lsmith3125 More than 1 year ago
A coming of age story set in 1985 might be relevant to my children, but it missed with me by quite a distance. Colson Whitehead's "Sag Harbor" is well written; his language is engaging. But my thrall with the book ended there. Just when I began to think that we were actually getting to an engrossing plot line within the story, Whitehead would add so many historic tangents and examples that I would lose the original point. When he would bring us back, then it was abrupt and anti-climactic. Other factors that would have been interesting to explore, like the effect of his parents rocky relationship on his maturation, were simply glossed over. All that said, Whitehead does have a very comfortable way with words, which is what kept me reading to the end. So as a white, middle-class matron, I feel that I couldn't relate to enough of the story to find some common ground for enjoyment. I hope that you can!
Tasses More than 1 year ago
I've written this review from 42 angles and deleted each one. Reading Sag Harbor was laborious for me. To top it all off, I watched an interview with the author and found him to be really great. I hate that. I don't want to talk crap about his book. Those of you interested in a different slant on the standard coming of age tale might finish this one. I couldn't. And that always makes me feel so small, not being able to appreciate a story. If we read to escape our known world, to learn about peoples and places different from our own, then shouldn't this old, poor, white woman be able to enjoy a witty, funny tale of a rich, black boy? I kept trying, but the sarcastic tone and jumbled scenes were too much for me. Sag Harbor is certainly a different angle on the standard coming-of-age tale, but I'm just not great with rich kids. Example? I kept screaming at Holden Caulfield to 'just go home.'
Jennmarie68 More than 1 year ago
We are introduced to Benji and his family as they make their annual summer long trek out to Sag Harbor. The community of the upper/upper middle class African Americans who want to have their own summer place, just like their white counterparts. The writing style takes a little to get used to but once I was hooked the writing didn't matter only the story did. At times it seemed as if one tale had little or nothing to do with the next but as you step back and look at the story as a whole everything is there for a reason. I quickly grew attached to Benji and short of a few incidents he seems to be a really good kid, just trying to find his place between two societies. The white prep-school kids he's with at school and his black Sag Harbor friends that he shares his summers with. We are also taken into the 80's with catch phrases like "Dag" and the music that is so often referred to in this book. And anyone who's been a teenager can relate to the situations that Benji finds himself in. Overall this is one of the best books I've read recently.
lovetoread75 More than 1 year ago
When this book first arrived in the mail my husband took one look and said, "you aren't going to like this book...I might like it, but you won't." I disagreed with him. However half-way through the book, I realized what he meant. I think it's more of a "boy" book, if that makes sense. I was excited that the book was set in the mid-80's, but in retrospect that had very little to do with the story. In addition I found the growing disconnect within the family depressing. I thought the story started off at a great pace, but quickly slowed almost to a halt for me. I guess all in all, there were not enough parallels between my life and the authors for it to sound any chords in my mind or imagination.
Arlene54 More than 1 year ago
I truly cannot say that this book captured my interest and that I "had" to finish it. On the contrary, I really had to push myself to take the time to read it. Nevertheless, I don't think it is badly written and I am more inclined to think that it is due to the fact that I am not an american and, besides I wasn't raised here. Therefore, I am sure there are many subtles things that I haven't catched; many cultural details I am missing, etc. I can not recommend the book nor could I express a knowledgeable opinion about it.
Ioanna_Brewer More than 1 year ago
The book did NOT hold my interest at all, which I find strange since I was one of those African-American kids who spent my school days in predominantly white schools and my summers in Sag Harbor or Martha's Vineyard. There were too many useless details to keep me interested. I didn't even bother to finish the book.
Cesspria More than 1 year ago
Colson Whitehead is truly very talented, and a master of description. Yes, the book is filled with description, not so much of things, but of events, memories, and experiences. Be prepared to be drawn into his world. It may or may not be one you can relate to, but for me, even though my upbringing was very different, the teenage experience rang true. Isn't being a teenager laregly about overcoming awkwardness and discovering who you are inside your own skin? And yet it happens so slowly and painfully....again, another point that rang true was the dysfunctional aspects of his family...they were there in the background, yet his summer still managed to be about the summer job, the girls, the friends, and the goofing off. If you enjoy a realistic retrospective type plot, rather than high drama, then I highly recommend.
kpud More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time with this book. It is more a set of short stories than an actual novel, and each chapter seems to end before the story is actually over. In each case, I wanted more; I wanted to know what happened! My favorite parts of the books were the descriptions of the summer job the main character held. I had a similar job in high school and I could easily put myself in the Jonni Waffle to see what was going on.
jmc01 More than 1 year ago
Sag Harbor is a very interesting, though sometimes difficult, read. A reminiscing of middle class Afro-American teenagers' summers by the shores of New England. Although very fanciful and funny, the story line did not flow smoothly. I found myself rereading various phases in order to make sense of what was taking place or being said.
JAmber More than 1 year ago
Sag Harbor is the first book that I've read by Colson Whitehead. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a story about a summer in Sag Harbor and much more. The author goes into great detail and touches on subjects that kept me reminiscing my youth. I was a lot like Benji, I think that is why I enjoyed this book so much. The closer I got to the end, the more I kept thinking "I don't want this book to end."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a delightful read, no matter what age you are. Mr. Whitehead has captured a summer vacation on Sag Harbor for Benji, (the main character), his family and friends so well that I feel like I was there. The summer of 1985 for the Community of African-Americans and particularly life for the teens and tweens at Sag Harbor was funny, thoughtful and a re-read for me.
Readingrat More than 1 year ago
Colson Whitehead calls this his "autobiographical fourth novel" and in it he takes the reader back to the Sag Harbor he remembers from the mid 80s. The story is all about fitting in. Our protagonist, Benji, comes from a Cosby-esc family; is one of a few kids-of-color in a private New York Prep school; and spends his summers at Sag Harbor. The book is composed of a series of short vignettes that focus in on Benji's coming-of-age during one Sag Harbor summer. I would recommend this book for book clubs since it raises many issues that I feel would spark some interesting discussions.
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
Mr Whitehead gives us his semi autobiographical novel Sag Harbor, in it he describes life as known by Benji a fifteen year old left to his own devices one summer. It's funny and touching and gives us a sense of what it felt like to be him, and I'm glad to have been there for the ride. The writing is impeccable, his use of phrases and his impressions of different scenes made it easy for me to visualize the goings on in the book. Even though the story isn't unique, a coming of age book for a boy, the telling of it is, and it was done with humor and insight that could only come from personal experience. The characters were also outstanding, they were well developed and multi-dimensional which is a real feat being they are mostly compiled of adolescent boys. I would highly recommend this book to any one who enjoys great writing, outstanding humor and a look into what it means to be a boy of 15.
unmainstreammomreads More than 1 year ago
Sag Harbor reminded me of just how painfully dorky I was as a teenager. I think I like reading these kinds of memoirs because they help me remember that I was not alone in my awkwardness. Colson Whitehead (called Benji in this book) struggled with the difference between Sag Harbor, where his family vacationed, and New York, where they lived. The culture and race differences were very noticeable, and in addition to having to grow up, he also had to figure out who he was and where he belonged. While Whitehead did have a tendency to go overboard and get sidetracked with descriptions, I still enjoyed the book and it had many funny moments.
jholcomb More than 1 year ago
This episodic novel follows fifteen-year-old Benji through one summer spent in Sag Harbor's African American community. Largely abandoned by his parents for the summer, Benji navigates traumas like being cancelled on in favor of a girl and triumphs like getting into a concert at an 18 and over club. Looking back as an adult, Benji seems deeply reflective about everything except his own motivations and interests, which often remain opaque. I found myself skipping some of the copious descriptive and historical passages but a few places were laugh-out-loud funny, as when Benji pondered the white fascination with Afro hairstyles. This novel was not my usual cup of tea, but was readable and interesting despite the lack of a coherent plot.
cornwall More than 1 year ago
This writer has a true gift for expression in writing. He explains a situation and a character very well. I just wasn't crazy about the story, and couldn't find the characters ones that I sought more about.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderfully written coming of age novel. The main character is Benji, a 15 year old upper middle class black kid. He and his younger brother Reggie are spending the summer mostly unsupervised at their parents beach house in Sag Harbor.The author does a very good job in evoking the time period of 1985. For me, the book was a contrast of the familiar and foreign-- I remember new coke and the fashions, but beach houses and the art of an afro were new to me. I understand family conflict but not the relationships between teen boys.At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to the brothers as being virtual twins, but by the time we come to the summer in question, they have drifted apart, even choosing to attend different schools. We get a look at how this relationship changes, and what being brothers really means to them. The rest of the family is largely kept in the background. We get glimpses of the older sister, and of the relationship between the mother and father. These are not smooth relationships, but we really only see them in the impact on Benji and Reggie, such as when they accidentally find a list their mother made, outlining their father's faults (and there are some big ones on the list).We also see the challenges within their group of peers in Sag Harbor. Some trick of demographics caused there to be virtually no girls within their age group. Watching the interactions between these boys on the edge of being men was interesting. Each of them has his own journey that summer, but they are interwoven as well.The story was narrated by Benji as an adult, looking back on his childhood. Most of the time, the narration is unobtrusive, which made the occasional glimpses we got of the grown Ben more powerful. We read about the friends' mostly innocent adventures with BB guns that summer, then Ben mentions that later encounters with guns were more serious, and talks of the loss of friends. One thing that hasn't come through in this review is that the book is funny, really funny. Whitehead has a light touch which keeps the more serious issues from overwhelming his entertaining look at day to day life. The descriptions of Benji's job at the ice cream parlor and details about the grammatical patterns of their cursing are just a few of the parts that had me laughing while reading.
whjensen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do you have that special place from your childhood? The one that will always be your first love? For Colson Whitehead, in his "autobiographical" novel Sag Harbor, this place is his family's beach house on Long Island.Sag Harbor covers the teenage summers of Benji ("Call me Ben") as he navigates those painful years of both discovering and inventing who you are, where a single failure can allow others to define who you are without your permission. In the book, Whitehead creates a sympathetic character who is real, who we can associate with, who we can project ourselves onto. And that is his success. By the end of the book, we are thinking not of Sag Harbor but of our own childhood, of our own "beach house" where we escaped our lives and could be who we wanted to be, but ended up being even more of ourselves.Structurally, Sag Harbor is not driven by plot. Although it follows the events of a summer, this is more a device for us to learn about Benji, for Whitehead to show the arc of self-discovery through the events. This can - at times - slow down the novel. But the author's eloquently sparse style keeps it from becoming a burden. He has gathered anecdotes and arranged them in an order that lets us see the progression without showing us the end.A good book.
Suuze on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry I can't finish this book - advance copy or not. I read half of it and feel as if I'm simply wasting my time now, since I have no interest in it. The language made me uncomfortable, and I couldn't identify with any of the characters. I tried, because I like the author's style, but at this point it's simply a waste of my time - and I absolutely *hate* not finishing a book.However, I'm moving on to a book I can truly enjoy.
RachelWeaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You know the Seinfeld parody of the J. Peterman catalog? Those travelogues of inanimate objects obsessively detailed to the point of hilarity? That's kind of what this book is like: an absurd, obsessively detailed, romaticized travelogue of human folly. And I honestly mean that in a good way. The man can write the hell out of a sentence, and though he is using the rose-colored glasses we often use to view our pasts, you can tell by the prosaic subjects he chooses--New Coke, Swanson TV dinners, the grammar of teenage insults--that the tint isn't hiding any flaws exactly, they're just putting a slight haze over the proceedings. The juxtaposition of the elaborate detail and the mundane subjects generally results in both insight and hilarity.A standout passage describing holding hands for the first time with a girl at a roller rink:"We were out there forever. How does one measure infinity in a roller rink? You can test the universe by asking questions--how many mirrored tiles on disco balls shooting how many pure white streaks across the walls and floors, how many ball bearings clacking into each other like agitated molecules in how many polyurethane wheels, how many inkblot colonies of bacteria blooming unchecked in the toe-ward gloom of how many rented skates. But let's say this notion of chintzy roller-rink infinity is best expressed by the number two. Two people, two hands, and two songs, in this case, 'Big Shot' and 'Bette Davis Eyes.'"My complaint about this book is that I suspect that it is the victim of the post-James Frey world of publishing. Everyone's too paranoid to publish a memoir these days that uses any sort of creative license, and so this got published as a novel. As a novel, it's a 4-star book. As a memoir, it would have been 5 stars. There are different rules, different plotting techniques required of a novel, and this just doesn't come up to meet those expectations. As a series of remembrances, a soliloquy on growing up and finding yourself when you don't fit into the pre-defined rules of the world forced on you, this book excels. But there is no real plot or story arc, no strong enough tension pulling this together as a novel. Obviously I don't know how much of this self-described autobiographical novel was fictionalized, but I have a pretty strong feeling that not much would need to be changed to call it a memoir and perhaps throw a disclaimer about faulty memory and protecting identities at the front of the book. What best summarizes this book is a passage in which the narrator describes his reaction to his aunt selling the house that he spent summers in as a child: "I was appalled, but you know me. I was nostalgic for everything big and small. Nostalgic for what never happened and nostalgic about what will be, looking forward to looking back on a time when things got easier."
chris227 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great read. Discusses tough issues such as race and family dysfunction but with such a wondeful humor you want to continue reading on. This book crosses generations, race, and gender as it tells its story of adolescence in such a relatable fashion. Anyone who remembers the 80's will find humor in the classic references to such things as 'the new coke" and swanson dinners. A wonderful read!