One of the people who wants out of Trinity Springs is Italian-American Sid Jackson. He was a student at Berkeley but got busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm. Now he has to spend a year on probation and can’t leave the Trinity Springs area. In order to make a living, Otis the town sheriff and friend to Sid’s parents finds boarders to live on Sid’s farm and pay rent. Now Sid has to live in a house of misfits, try not to break his probation and figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life.
A Year In The Company Of Freaks is a coming of age tale that can also be labeled as historical fiction. Sid and all of the boarders in the farmhouse are young and trying to figure out what they want from this world. They are also facing a certain amount of discrimination from the town because they are very different from the people in town. Even within the house they face discrimination because they are all unique. One of the tenants named Mika is going to a church school and gets referred to as a Jesus freak and is treated like an outsider. We also have a biker trying to win custody of his daughter and a Vietnam veteran who has trouble socializing and suffers from PTSD. There is also the problem that with the exception of Mika, all the people in the house do drugs and if Sid gets caught around it he will be breaking his probation and get thrown in prison.
This book is a character study in what people were like in the early seventies and the hardships they faced. Sid does dress like a hippie but doesn’t really fit into the movement. There is one good scene where he goes to a bar and the waitress gets upset with him because of how he looks, seeing him as a draft dodger. Also I felt for Mika in the way she gets ostracized for being religious. The only ones who are supportive of everyone is Otis and his wife Pearlie who are quick to give advice or provide warm meals.
Everyone in the house changes a lot over a year, especially Sid who is now forced to deal with the loss of his parents and his own doubts as to whether he can keep from getting high or not. I enjoyed watching the characters grow and the support they get from Otis and Pearlie. In particular I liked when they point out how true friendship is sacrifice and if it comes easy it’s not real. This is an idea you see proven among the people in the farm-house, nothing is easy for them. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would, it’s a long book but I was so into the characters that it seemed like a quick read. The story is about life itself and it’s something anyone can relate too.