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Literature & Fiction - Genre Fiction

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Alley Pond Park

ISBN: 9780997078039
Binding: Paperback
Author: Zachary T. Gordon
Pages: 424
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 03/26/2024

Seth Matthews was sixteen when his older brother Jonah sped away on his motorcycle and never returned. Seth blames himself, but does he know the whole truth as he sets off on a journey to find Jonah and beg his forgiveness? He yearns to be a good person but his inner demons keep tripping him up. Neither success nor a loving marriage can satisfy the emptiness at his core as he navigates secrets, guilt, and obsessions through two tumultuous decades. Alley Pond Park is a compelling novel that explores the walls in which we imprison ourselves, but also the redemptive power of love.


Zachary Todd Gordon grew up on Long Island and lived in Wisconsin, Boston, Chicago and New York before moving to the Pacific Northwest. After graduating from Beloit College and DePaul University College of Law, he worked as a journalist and Wall Street investment banker. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and family.


The Genesis of Alley Pond Park

At the age of eighteen I had an adventure in Mexico.

I had no particular direction or skills, but I did have visions of grandeur. I wanted to be Hemingway. I wanted to experience life on my own, define myself on my own terms.
My field term job at a paper factory in Mexico City kept me officially enrolled in college and out of Vietnam. But after toiling for two boring months, I took off to find the "real" Mexico with an older traveler I met on the streets of Mexico City, assuming a new identity along the way. His goal was Tierra del Fuego. Mine was open-ended. I made it as far as Guatemala before running out of money and returned to school.

I submitted a censored version of the journal I'd kept for field term credit, hoping to someday expand it into a memoir. In the ensuing years, life intervened. The journal sat in various desk drawers in numerous cities through college, graduate school, marriage, children, career and ultimately retirement. In 2017 I exhumed and expanded it, first by returning the sections I'd removed for propriety's sake. Then I began to embellish it. My protagonist became a more audacious, reckless individual. Took adventures I wished I'd experienced. But the half-century of baggage I'd collected in the interim, particularly painful episodes I'd shunted aside, rose from the murk, begging to be reckoned with. I felt compelled to give it voice, at the risk of exposing myself.

A different book emerged, a novel that embraced my Mexico experience while drawing on other aspects of my personal history, as well as the lives of others who had touched mine. With the benefit of hindsight, I created a new protagonist, Seth Matthews, an unreliable narrator who speaks in an unsparing voice that ages from seventeen to forty-three, telling his own story of buried secrets, self-deceptions, and hope.


"Alley Pond Park's brilliance lies in its poignant portrayal of a tortured Seth Matthews, haunted by perceived wrong-doings and aching for love, desperately trying to navigate his nascent adulthood amidst a world undergoing unprecedented social and political upheaval. By turns heartbreaking, funny, painful, maddening, and utterly engrossing, the novel unsparingly, but compassionately, explores the heart, mind and soul of a troubled, yet fascinating, young man and the essence of the times." - Nancy Johnson, author, Redefining Success: Women's Unique Paths

"Alley Pond Park is a captivating coming-of-age story that follows Seth Matthews from his socially awkward arrival at Wisconsin's Beloit College in 1969, where he aspires to be a 'Woodstock man,' to his drug-fueled odyssey through Mexico and his ascendance during the 1980's avarice of Wall Street, where he single-mindedly focuses on becoming a Lehman Brothers partner. This yearning and striving, and the story's momentum, is driven by Seth's insecurity, unresolved family secrets, and his aching search for his identity. Readers may find themselves hating the lead character's blatant narcissism one moment, then rooting for his very survival the next. This is an epic tale of a flawed, loving, confused man who persists in finding his way in a very difficult world, and ultimately a universal story of finding oneself despite the lies and secrets buried within a family. The ending is breathtaking." - Susan Kasten, Editor emerita, Beloit College Magazine

"Zachary Todd Gordon's ambitious debut novel explores the complexity of family and identity, love and belonging, with humor and care. Alley Pond Park is bighearted and compelling—enjoy the journey." - Michelle Gutman, owner, Up Up Books

"Gordon's singular and captivating story of love and heartbreak, by turns hilarious and haunting, manages to capture the vast madness of the late 20th century. A resounding paean to the redemptive power of love, this deeply felt debut novel is perfect for fans of Jonathan Franzen and Scott Spencer. It will stay with you long past reading. I couldn't put it down." - Rhianna Walton, former Managing Editor, Powell's Books