A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Publisher’s Blurb:

Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment.

Matt Anthony is just trying get by.

Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad is a no-show, his brother’s fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it. Not after another missing girl turns up dead on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast.

If it’s not already too late.

My Take:

I’m going to make a list today. Here goes!


  • The late sixties atmosphere: The haze of the weed and the dark underbelly of the Free Love movement. Parker did such a great job putting the reader in that time and place. The Harley riders, the storefront focused on “meditation” and “spiritual peace” and the Southern California surfers out in the water.
  • Matt is a fantastic character. He’s just a bit naive, but has such guilt and loyalty on his shoulders about his sister’s disappearance that he pushes through and does things he never thought he’d be able to do. I thought the characterization was just about perfect… no dumps here, but reveals that occur through his actions. His dedication to his paper route, his love for his sister, and this new opportunity to do the right thing on his own.

Not a Dislike, but an Explanation:

  • The Pacing: I suspect a lot went into getting this story to move forward just right. Matt’s own hesitancy, his mother’s mercurial life, his brother’s anxiety-ridden, his love life, and his sister’s kidnapping… yep, it’s a lot, and as the threads start to reveal themselves the pace only quickens. What I want to say is that the set-up takes a little bit of time, but the payoff is worth it!

An engrossing historical thriller and a gripping coming-of-age… Even though I read it over Veteran’s Day, I would call it a perfect Weekend Read.

5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Forge Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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