Book Review: We Are All Together
Reviewed by Anne Greenawalt
The epic journey of a self-destructive rockstar during the Summer of Love
We Are All Together depicts the life of a 22-year-old guitarist from Kansas named Stephen Cane. He dreams of becoming a successful rockstar, but can he really recover from all the poor relationships, drug addiction, and bad luck? This historical literary novel by Richard Fulco explores failed celebrity, racial discrimination, and love in the late 1960s.
Following the suicide of its lead singer, Stephen’s band disintegrates, so he follows his childhood best friend Dylan John (nèe Arthur Devane) to New York to continue to pursue his rock and roll dream. Stephen thinks he’s made it big when he’s invited to play with Dylan’s band, Red Afternoon, but, before a big concert, Dylan publicly announces that he’s quitting music forever and will instead become a leader in the Civil Rights Movement to champion equal rights for Black Americans.
Because of this, the band’s manager pushes Stephen to lead guitarist and vocals. The promotion makes Stephen feel like he’s both climbing to greatness and drowning under the pressure to fill Dylan’s shoes. He makes bad decisions with women and drugs, and soon after, Stephen and Dylan’s ex-wife are kidnapped by the Jolly Jokesters, a radical anti-Black group.
From there, Stephen goes on a wild journey across the country where he witnesses events that traumatize him, where he questions his ability to achieve greatness, and where, maybe, he’ll stumble into love—while spiraling closer to self-destruction and death.
We Are All Together has strong, complex characters who are all on a journey of either choosing life, pursuing death, or a combination of the two. Early in the story, Stephen’s girlfriend Emily, who becomes his best friend’s wife and ultimately someone who wants him dead, tells him: “Only problem is you have a purpose in mind, Stephen. Let go of your goals and just live!” Stephen tries to be in the moment and just live, but he also holds onto his goals. He seeks to find a balance between the two and lead a life of greatness, but the competing forces lead him on a path of self-destruction.
Stephen rubs elbows with some of the greatest musicians, celebrities, and anti-heroes of the time like George Harrison, Goldie Hawn, Neal Cassidy, and William Burroughs. Fulco goes all-in with the period lingo, placing readers firmly in the late 1960s, like when Dylan John addresses the audience at his band’s concert: “Red Afternoon thanks all of you, brothers and sisters, beautiful people, for joining us at this very cosmic love-in on this very righteous and historic afternoon. Are you having a groovy time? Weren’t Big Brother and the Holding Company a gas? Far out, man!”
When Stephen becomes lead guitarist for Red Afternoon, he thinks he has reached the end of his journey, even though it is just beginning:
“I had always been comfortable with the quest. I was used to chasing pipe dreams like Frankie and The Good for Nothings and Janie, but I wasn’t sure how I was gonna handle things when I finally reached my destination. But there I was with my rock and roll pipe dream that had now become a reality. And it stung like a son of a gun!”
Stephen’s epic journey—spiritually and emotionally as much as physically—creates a fast-pace narrative that keeps readers constantly engaged. When and how will he hit rock bottom? And more importantly, can he redeem himself from there, if it doesn’t kill him?
We Are All Together may be historical fiction from the 1960s but its themes of civil rights, pursuits of love, and self-destructive artists are universal. Fulco’s novel is a must-read for a lover of rock and roll, pursuits of greatness, and epic journeys.
Publisher: Wampus Multimedia
Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Historical
Print Length: 242 pages
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