President Emery Clayton III has gone to an attic room in the White House to seek solitude far from the madding crowd. As he ponders the deep divisions within the country, he runs his hand over the surface of the resolute desk which once stood in the Oval Office but is now relegated to this dark attic room. On the desk, he discovers writing etched into the wood. Leaning closer, he reads the words out loud…
Thus begins his strange journey back in time. Mysteriously transported into the body of his grandfather, Emery Clayton (called “Clay” by his friends), the President finds himself on a plane in the year 1960 traveling with two colleagues (Lou and Ben) to Australia. Also on the plane is a young black man (James) who is consumed with hatred for the white race because of all the inequities they have visited upon him and his people.
A Switch in Time is the story of three of these men (Clay, Lou, and James) and how they bridge the racial, economic, and social gaps that divide them.
Allegorical in nature, this novel is brilliantly conceived. Written originally in 1960 by Author McLean’s mother (Eleanor LaRue) its exploration of racial divide is as relevant today as it was back then. Inheriting the manuscript after her mother’s passing, McLean has updated it and added in the unique time change twist.
The story, while socially important, is also riveting. The characters are fully-fleshed, multi-faceted, and believable. The character of Lou is especially pivotal, as he becomes the arbiter between two other men who hold deep-seated animus for each other.
A Switch in Time: The President is Missing… is an outstanding work of fiction, a real page-turner, and is highly recommended by this reader.