The Resolutions: A Novel by Brady Hammes

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The architecture of her life began to crumble.

In The Resolutions by Brady Hammes, the architecture of all three siblings lives (Sam, Jonah and Gavin) have begun to crumble. Sam was so full of promise, a talented, skilled ballerina before an injury destroyed her dreams. Salvation came with a Russian dance company northeast of Moscow. Living at “Chàteau Oksana” feels more like a campus, which is exactly what everyone calls it. Meant to dazzle, charm the guests at monthly parties, her life is wearing her down, but nothing more than her old injury and the death of her days dancing with the New York City Ballet when she was only 18. Heroin is an escape from everything that pains her in this place that is a blanket of snow, the perfect place to bury one’s dreams. Isolated though this place may be, such demons can only be tolerated for so long.

Jonah is the intellectual in the family, distanced from his artistic siblings. He feels lonely, ready to attempt to strengthen the bonds. Jonah came to Gabon, Africa to assist his thesis advisor at Vanderbilt, studying the vocalization of forest elephants, planting ARUS (Autonomous Recording Units) to better understand how the animals communicate. It’s important work, but a mountain of pressure when his advisor takes ill, leaving Jonah in the forests of solitude and danger.Just as he is readying himself for a trip home, hoping to connect with his little sister and older brother he falls into an abyss of trouble all because his camera gets stolen. Soon he has the threat of poachers looming over his head, but that is just the beginning. Trouble rises, someone has a plan and he has no choice but to obey. Sometimes it’s the stable, quiet one whose mistakes could cost lives.

Gavin is the actor, but a decent face isn’t always enough to bounce back. Maybe his career was thriving years ago, but now it feels like “making it big”in the industry just isn’t going to happen. What was it all for? His relationship has ended and now, his show. On the horizon there is Marina and a cabin in  Taos, but all that glistens isn’t gold. He is too old to feel like he has to start over again, too old to believe his dreams will come true and definitely old enough to know better about… well… everything.  Now he is sorely needed at home. Just who needs saving? Maybe they all do.

This novel explores the shifting dynamics within sibling relationships, and how our dreams sometimes have to die to be reborn into something new. The slightest change in our fate can send us hurtling, but what is life but weather? The damage we try to keep close is sometimes best shared with our loved ones, because sometimes they really do have to step in and help steer the wreckage we’ve made of ourselves. Even the perfect, most promising child can trip up. Sometimes saving others saves us too.

Publication Date: May 5, 2020

Random House

Ballantine Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

142 Ostriches: A Novel by April Davila

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At worst, you lived a life bent by compromise until you woke up one day worn-out and bitter because you let someone talk you into a life you never wanted in the first place.

Grandma Helen just made a big exit from her life and now her granddaughter Tallulah Jones is responsible for running her Ostrich Ranch in the Mojave Desert.  The problem is Tallulah has plans to work with the Forest Service and had just received an acceptance letter assigning her to a fire prevention handcrew in Montana before this disaster. Grandma Helen would have none of it and tried to convince Tallulah to stay. Unsurprisingly, her grandchild couldn’t be swayed, so she found a way to keep her tied in to the land. Grandma Helen up and died, mysteriously in an accident. Was it really an accident? Through the coming days, with the ranch as her inheritance, Tallulah is struggling to keep up with the endless, exhausting work. Collecting eggs, feeding the ostriches took long enough even with their old routine, but left to complete the tasks alone takes endless hours. One person is not made to maintain an ostrich ranch alone! The birds all all depressed without their beloved caregiver and there isn’t much she can do to fix that. It has to be sold!

Tallulah has a plan, no way is she going to compromise in her life, “there was one more card I could play.” But the ostriches aren’t cooperating and have suddenly stopped laying eggs! She is going to sell this place off come hell or high water, if the family doesn’t like it, too bad. They had little interest in the place, all this time, no one more so than her absentee mother. Still, no one is going to make it easy. Her unpredictable Uncle Scott arrives with his sponsor Matt in tow (as a babysitter, he says), dangerous when high but not much better when sober. His anger flares with the news she is selling, and the blatantly unfair fact that his inheritance is nothing more than a measly watch does nothing but feed his fire. Things are about to blow. Aunt Christine has her hands full raising her 5 girls and pregnant again with another ‘blessing’. Sprouting scripture, will it do her any good when life tests her as well? Then there is Devon, who wants to know what’s going on in Tallulah’s head, not just set her body aflame. He longs for permanence and promises, expecting her job away to be a temporary escape. But to Tallulah, he is starting to feel like another anchor, holding her to this place that she wants nothing more than to abandon. Which brings to mind her own alcoholic restless mother. Addiction runs through the family, with her own mother’s love affair with the bottle, her uncle’s constant highs on drugs and her aunt’s unwavering love of religion. Her Grandma Helen wasn’t always so put together either.

Before she turned 13, Tallulah learned how to live a tumbleweed existence at her mother’s side. Ripped free from the roots of family, men coming and going, no clue as to who her father is, picking up and moving, the two of them blowing in the wind, never still for long.  A life without routine or stability, living in cheap places among things salvaged for free, until one day Grandma Helen appears as sudden as a cloud, demanding her mother let her take her granddaughter under her wing. Her mother doesn’t put up much of a fight, despite the fact Grandma Helen is a stranger to Tallulah, and seems to turn her nose up at their meager lives. As if making a full circle in her mother’s place, she grows up with the ostriches from then on, in the very place her own mother escaped.  It isn’t so bad being cared about, paid attention to nor getting to know her extended family. It’s soothing caring for the peculiar ostriches, working in the barn, being surrounded by animals. But the severing from her fickle mother is an ache. The distance and seeming indifference scars over her heart as the years collect, until the past arrives, begging for attention.

Life is moving on at a fast pace, everything is falling apart, the ostriches aren’t cooperating anymore than her family and it is detrimental to the sale that their failure to lay eggs remains unknown. But that is the least of her problems, worse is soon to befall them all and the biggest threat comes from her own blood. Does she care about the ostriches more than she thought? Are they more than just a means to an end? Her decisions could cost Tallulah her very life, not everyone is open to change, and does she even know her own mind, understand her choices? Why is settling down and committing to one man repellent? How can she betray her grandmother’s last wishes? As she fights to see her plans succeed, Tallulah learns the age old lesson of the best laid plans.

I learned a bit about ostriches, very cool and strange birds! Addiction wreaking havoc through generations is sadly all too common. This is become a sort of new normal, sadly, in our times. Too, the confusion of youth, not sure of your place in the world, whirling in many directions with past and present affecting your relationships, clouding your desires. This is an author worth watching.

Available Now

Published February 2020

Kensington Books

 

 

 

Dead Heat by Benedek Totth (Ildikó Noémi Nagy, Translation)

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As I snapped Mishy’s nose back into place, it made a huge cracking noise, then the poor bastard howled and had some kind of spasm.

Dead Heat is a wild coming of age story about teenage boys on a swim team in Hungary who also happen to spend most their days in a drunken, drugged out daze when they’re not having sex with any and every girl in their vicinity. Porn obsessed the boys see girls as nothing but ‘sluts’, there to please them. The girls themselves all too willing to ‘give it up’ any time and every which way. The boys feel invincible, as the youthful often do, able to maintain, for a time anyway, their strength for a highly competitive sport. Pushing through hardcore practices lead by their brutally hard coach, whose rage they have a gift for invoking, over time becomes harder fed by their many vices. Our narrator along with his loser pals Zoli-boy, Ducky, Buoy and Mishy are soaked in testosterone, playing violent video games, starting war with dealers,  packing heat, stealing and speeding through the streets high as kites. The rot in their bond starts when they are involved in a serious accident, forced to pretend like nothing happened. Silence is for wise men, and they better all keep their mouths shut. Top of their game, they’ve been too free to prowl the town and their parents are either too high themselves to notice anything about the boys, or oblivious.

There is so much to rage against and the boys are each numb to their existence, not even taking beatings seem to shake them awake. Criminal behavior is second nature, what else fires the blood when you’re bored more than the thrill of the getting away from authority? What makes the heart pump faster than chasing girls, chasing highs? Are they afraid of anything or just pretending not to be? Before long, their criminal acts push them into murky waters of life and death. Violence is around every corner, when one of their friends goes missing, the heat intensifies and loyalties are pushed to breaking. Who can they trust? Just how far will they go? Swim meets are nothing compared to the pressure of enemies, and soon going into hiding may be the only way for our narrator to get his head straight, to make sense of what has happened, to examine his friends, to determine which direction threats are coming from.

It’s a raw, gritty, sordid read. It is a coming of age in a time when boys feel dead inside, when culture fuels the violence, and no cage is secure enough to stop them. It’s hard to find a redeeming quality, but maybe their is a slim chance at redemption for the narrator… very slim, if he makes it out alive. These boys are the crime scene you stop and stare at on the side of the road. It’s only a matter of time before they have to wake up to reality, and it’s going to be a brutal hangover!

Publication Date: November 19, 2019

Biblioasis