Seven people happen to be in Lindbergh’ s Pharmacy on the evening of June 24 in the small college town of Athens, Georgia, when a would-be mass shooter with a grudge plans to strike. Former elementary teacher Tina Lamm, beloved by her students, claims that her secret to being a terrific teacher was “always remembering that, at the end of the day, they’re someone else’s problem. You do the best you can, you care of them, you try to educate them, you try to help them, but when the bell rings, you hand them off to someone else…” She treats them like “temporary amusements,” knowing “they’re ultimately on their own like the rest of us.”
The Time Has Come by Will Leitch
The Time Has Come by Will Leitchdescribes a community confronting the Covid pandemic, climate change, inequality and divided politics. Tina admits she is disturbed. “How can you look around at everything and not be disturbed…. To be disturbed is to be human.” She reflects on small-town life: “The thing about this little town is that everybody knows everybody, and if you’ve been one of those everybodies longer than people like us have been nobodies, you can get away with whatever you want.”
Tina is wrong though and the novel describes a diverse set of characters who do pull together: the drugstore’s owner, a judge’s widow, a lawyer who is also an activist for youth, a nurse who is also an army veteran, a local contractor and his gifted son – and an aging music fan who tends bar at an Athens club.
David, the character with the least potential, has the most intriguing story. The middle-aged man has devoted his life to an Athens music club, tending bar and long recognizing that “everyone was right in his face, all of them drunk, mocking him with their perfect youth and their whole lives in front of them, constantly reminding him that everything he was doing was wrong and probably always had been.” His substance abuse prompts his wife to leave with their young daughter and that eventually prompts sobriety. “Part of recovery is understanding that, that you’re just another helpless addict like everybody else. One of the first things you have to do… was recognize that there’s nothing special about you.”
During the pandemic, David helps other addicts with an online group – and one of the most hopeless and belligerent members drives hundreds of miles seeking David’s help. David also revives and treasures his relationship with his daughter, an aspiring musician with a “clear rock-star energy that David knew all too well. That she wanted to talk to him didn’t make him feel like a good dad. Honestly? It just made him fee sort of cool.”
Jason, a contractor and proud parent to a gifted teen, is Republican and often argues with his more liberal son. He concedes that even in a small town, people can generally be unfeeling. “The hardest thing about being a parent, in Jason’s view, was that your children weren’t nearly as special, as protected, as you thought they were…. to you, they were everything. But to the rest of they world, they are just another lump of flesh – one more tick on the tote board, one more person you’re stuck behind in traffic…. If he ever lost any of them, he would crumple into a heap on the floor and never get up. But the rest of the world wouldn’t do anything. Everyone would just walk around like nothing had happened.”
Daphne, the nurse who is also army veteran, has returned to hospital work after five years in the service. The country has changed in those five years, especially with politics representing a bigger part of daily life: “when she got back, out of nowhere, people were screaming whatever their political views were in your face at every opportunity. An they were screaming at you for not screaming yours.”
People were angry, carrying concealed weapons, and “everyone was just on the edge of losing it, all the time.” Daphne is determined to do her small part to restore order in her world, “keep everything in front of her safe, if the person in her care could be better than they had been when they’d come in that room with her.” And perhaps “bring the world back to what it was before.”
The book captures the angry despair of our era with a light touch. Kindness, understanding, listening, cooperation – a rare moment of strangers coming together to achieve understanding – prevents tragedy from compounding and spiraling out of control.