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Retro Reading: The Serial- A Year in the Life of Marin County by Cyra Mcfadden (Illustrated by Tom Cervenak)

Updated on April 22, 2019

I started the decade of the '70's as a mere child and ended it in my mid teens, but if there's one thing that I can remember, it's how I so desperately wanted to live in California. The residents of California seemed to have it all and they didn't have a care in the world.

That's what I wanted.

When The Serial came out, I didn't really understand it after I read it. I just knew that it took place near San Francisco and I'm sure I had asked a lot of questions when I read it. How they were answered, I'm not sure.

But, this parody (or really was this how people lived back then?) follows Kate and Harvey Holroyd through their trials and tribulations of living the The Liberated Life in Marin County.

Through the fifty two chapters, each representing a week, the journey starts with Kate reflecting on her life as she and Harvey are getting ready to attend her friend Martha's fifth wedding on Mount Tam.

Kate seems to be more into the California lifestyle than Harvey, but both definitely talk labels as from clothes to appliances, they only have the best of everything.

Since Kate wasn't happy about Harvey's behavior at the wedding, she decides that she wants to have an affair with her psychiatrist friend Leonard, but when she tries to seduce him, it doesn't go the way she planned it in her head and while she's seeking affairs, Harvey is cruising the bars and trying to figure out what he wants.

He knows that after a chance encounter with his secretary, Ms. Murphy, at yet another fern bar, he wants to pursue something with her and it's not taking a letter (since she barely types thirty words a minute). But, he has hopes that the chance encounter will lead to something.

The Holroyd's also have a teenage daughter, Joan, who's boyfriend is a high school dropout who dreams big and occasionally sells drugs.

When Harvey comes home that uneventful night, Joan's having a party and after a brief meltdown, he decides to sublet a condo during this trial separation. Kate tries to make ends meet by selling macrame' at the Marin City flea market on Saturday's but she wants to be a writer among other things.

As the story continues, things get crazier and crazier and you tend to become much more mellow.

McFadden has done an excellent parodying this time in American culture and with every turn of the page, you get more and more caught up in the book and the lives of the characters.

It's also fun to study Cervenak's illustrations since he captures a slice of what's going on in each chapter. By having the illustrations, you really are transported into the lives of these mellow creatures.

For a fun trip back into the past, everyone should reread or read this for the first time. You'll not only long for the past, but you may pick up on a thing or two that you might have missed the first time around.


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