The Awakener is Helen Weaver's long awaited memoir of her adventures with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce, and other wild characters from the New York City of the fifties and sixties. The sheltered but rebellious daughter of bookish Midwestern parents, Weaver survived a repressive upbringing in the wealthy suburbs of Scarsdale and an early divorce to land in Greenwich Village just in time for the birth of rock 'n' roll—and the counterculture movement known as the Beat Generation. Shortly after her arrival Kerouac, Ginsberg, and company—old friends of her roommate—arrive on their doorstep after a non-stop drive from Mexico. Weaver and Kerouac fall in love on sight, and Kerouac moves in.
Weaver recreates the excitement of a time when things were radically changing and shows us what it was like living with an eccentric genius at the turning point of his life. Eventually she asks Jack to leave but they remain friends, and over the years her respect for his writing grows even as Kerouac's reputation undergoes a gradual transition from enfant terrible to American icon. She comes to realize that by writing On the Road he woke America up—along with her—from the long dream of the fifties. And the Buddhist philosophy that once struck her as Jack's excuse for doing whatever he liked because "nothing is real, it's all a dream" eventually becomes her own.
"Helen Weaver's book was a revelation to me! Although I was a young woman in the fifties, I was there, but I wasn't there! This is the most graphic, honest, shameless, and moving documentary of what the newly liberated women in cities got up to—how they lived, loved, and created. Who knew? It is time they did! And here's how."
—Carolyn Cassady, author of Off the Road: Twenty Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg
"Helen Weaver's memoir is a riveting account of her love affair and friendship with Jack Kerouac. She is both clear-eyed and passionate about him, and writes with truly amazing grace."
—Ann Charters, author of Kerouac: A Biography, Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 and The Portable Jack Kerouac
"A wonderful view of Jack Kerouac and, most of all, a classic coming of age story. Brilliant and very moving to read: honest, funny, sad, and beautiful. I couldn’t put it down."
—David Amram, author of Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac
"A remarkable and intimate portrait of Greenwich Village in the fifties. The material on Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce, et al, provides a valuable and highly readable account of that important era. A wonderful and irreplaceable book, gracefully written with a sense of humor as well as of history."
—Dan Wakefield, author of New York in the Fifties
"Helen Weaver's moving, intelligent and clear-eyed memoir will capture the attention of many readers because of her love affair with Jack Kerouac. (How many people can claim to have slept with Kerouac AND Lenny Bruce, by the way?) But, in fact, her book is far more than merely a very sympathetic portrait of Kerouac, and of his friend Allen Ginsberg and of the people around them. It is at once a wonderfully intimate insider's description of a vanished age, an American Vie Bohème when all things seemed possible, of the Beats, and of Greenwich Village in the 1950s, and a memoir which is never for one moment mean-spirited, and which is triumphantly honest and candid."
—Michael Korda, author of Charmed Lives and Queenie