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The “Beach” is Euclid Beach Park, an actual amusement park in Cleveland, Ohio, on the southern shore of Lake Erie with its exciting atmosphere, thrilling rides, and tantalizing smells of fresh popcorn, taffy, and peanuts. But it is the Beach’s roller skating rink with its magnificent Gavioli band organ that forms the backdrop of the coming-of-age of two teenagers, Peter Skrak and Penny Hathaway. They are befriended by a worldly couple–Hamilton Clifford, a World War II veteran trying to establish himself as an artist, and Ellen Mikkelson, a college professor of French, a woman in the midst of a divorce fighting to find her place in the male-dominated culture of the summer of 1956. While Ellen and Penny develop a mother-daughter-like bond, friction over religion continues between Peter’s parents, and their lives and his are scarred by his mother’s rigid adherence to Catholic teachings. As the teenagers wrestle with confusion over sex and religion, the veteran and the professor grapple with commitment born of love: he, ready to make it; and she, reluctant. They all reach a turning point, though, when Peter is viciously beaten by his high school nemesis after he comes to Penny’s defense at the Beach’s dance pavilion.