The Manhattan art scene at the beginning of a new decade, the 1980s, is the premise of Tuesday Nights in 1980. We meet the main characters at different points in their lives, finally zeroing in on them as they navigate the new decade and struggle to express their art.
We are first introduced to Raul Engales, who has emigrated from Argentina, and then catch a glimpse of James Bennett and his wife Marge, as they join in with others for a New Year’s celebration at an art aficionado’s loft.
We see what each of their lives were like before, via flashbacks, and then we come to understand their particular gifts, which are unique. James’s synesthesia expresses itself via color, which is how he experiences his world, and how he interprets art through his column in the New York Times. Raul’s expression takes another form, but which surprisingly catches the attention of some gallery owners.
Enter Lucy Marie Olliason, who arrived a few months earlier from Ketchum, Idaho, and we see how her journey to Manhattan has been a fervent desire for years. I especially enjoyed watching her put her new life together…and then saw how she met up with Raul.
But things change, and just when everyone seemed firmly set on his or her path, a tragedy changes everything. How they each react to and inform their lives afterwards formulates the rest of their story.
While I enjoyed some of the stories and vignettes that gave us a peek into this unique world, the story plodded along for me, and I lost interest halfway through. I liked Lucy the most, and occasionally, James. Raul was a character with whom I did not connect, despite several instances that might ordinarily elicit my interest.
For me, this book earned three stars.