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from the dust jacket of the 1984 Houghton Mifflin first edition

The Outsider

In 1946 Leighton Ridge, a picture-book town just beyond commuting distance from New York City, still slumbers in a dream of rural New England, far from the holocaust and the war just ended, unprepared for the great social changes that will soon engulf even this peaceful community.

It is here that David Hartman, a chaplain fresh out of the Army, comes to serve as rabbi to fourteen Jewish families. And it is here that he meets Martin Carter, the Congregational minister who will become his closest and lifelong friend. They and their wives forge a bond that survives the unpleasant effects of a peculiarly nasty small-town prejudice and the larger strains of a world swept by great upheavals and governed by power, greed, and ambition.

Everything touches Leighton Ridge -- McCarthyism, the case of the atom spies, the civil rights movement, the agony of Vietnam, and the great push for women's rights. Always a response is demanded of the people who live in this community, men and women desperately trying to come to grips with their times, their destiny, and the network of joy and sorrow, good and evil, into which they were born and in which they must live. Woven through these larger events is the thread of a heartwarming and beautiful love story.

The unfolding of David Hartman's life is an enthralling journey through a part of our times that millions of us still remember, sometimes with nostalgia, sometimes with perplexity, and sometimes with heartbreak. Of all Howard Fast's many books, this perhaps will be remembered as the best and most important.