Ross Jarboe finds himself stuck in time between his life in the novel's present—it is set in the late 70's-- and his life in the past. Twenty some years before, his father moved his family from Boston to the safety of the Colorado Rockies and built an impervious fallout shelter under his house. In the late 60's, a commune formed not far from where Ross's family took refuge. "School's Out" is the name of this community—but the phrase also sums up a growing trend of the time—a generation going out on its own. "No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks." Freedom—but not freedom without costs and dangers. Ross moves to School's Out then goes to Mexico with Laurel, a woman he meets there.
The novel opens about ten years later. Ross is a single dad living in Boston. He and his business partner Dean are taking a chance and are opening a Mexican restaurant. The late seventies is a time of change, not just for Ross but for his whole generation. Life is getting more serious; school bells are ringing again. Ross must be a responsible restaurant manager. At the same time he is a bit of a peeping tom, spying on a woman who lives across the alley from him. And his ex-wife Laurel—still living at an almost abandoned School's Out—haunts his memories.
School's Out is a historical novel of the not-so-distant past, recalling the way things were almost half a century ago. The language, the attitudes, the details evoke the seventies as effectively as mood rings, Herbal Essence shampoo, disco, sideburns, and bell-bottom pants. Readers who were there and even those who weren't will feel immersed in the zeitgeist of that time.