I have had Phillip Vega's book, Last Exit to Montauk, sitting on my desk for weeks, really, ever since it released earlier this year. I've been looking forward to reading it, but but have been hesitant. I've set myself a mission, with these book reviews to draw attention to small press and indie writers who don't have anybody actively working to make their books a sucess on their behalf. That is not the case here. Vega partnered with a newly revisioned publishing house out of Canton, Georgia, thewordverve.com, and they are working really hard to promote this book. I am seeing interviews, I am seeing Author Highlights, I am seeing Vega everywhere I look. He's been at book festivals, he's been at book signings in the big chain book sellers. I know for a fact that they've sold through their first run and are probably closing in on selling through their second run. That's some impressive work for a man who two years ago didn't know he was a writer. He has a team backing him, so I didn't feel like he needed my little book review. His small press is working hard for him, and becasue of that I think thewordverve.com is a small press that we should keep an eye on, they are doing it the old school way, and that's what's been lost by the big house publishing industry, the personal attention, the care.
So, Last Exit to Montauk think Less Than Zero minus the drugs and sleaze, but with that same candor, the same "inside your head" walk through another person's life, meets the Outsiders, with it's personable characters and the hint of social awkwardness. It's a love story set in Long Island during the 1980's. Those iconic eighties, with the big hair, the boat shoes, MTV, and corded phones, and Vega draws it back into focus with exquisite detail. He draws it up with both eyes open, without a hint of sentimentality. The people -- his mother, who mixes Spanish and English in the same sentence, the siblings, the friends, all of it is so nicely detailed and rendered, even the characters you will hate, they are all handled with care. Vega looks back at this first love, "B", and we fall in love with her right along with him. We fall in love with her laugh, with the way she moves, with the way her mind works, and with her sense of humor. She is encapsulated in this book like a photo in a locket. We love B every bit as much as our narrator does. Every step through this book rings true. It's like Vega filleted his soul for the world to see.
Read this book. It will make you feel things you may have forgotten, or things you've never known. There is great love in this book, and great tragedy. It's a book I'll never forget.