by L. M. Brown

"Cooper and Stefano had walked into a house where something terrible had happened, and though the disaster had occurred years ago, father and daughter had never come out of their shock to speak about it."

The landscape of the human heart is a treacherous thing to map, filled as it is with the cliffs and quicksands of despair and regret. This author, however, proves a gifted cartographer, adept at delineating the often unrecognizable borders between conflicting emotions that keep people apart or draw them together. There is much of both separation and reunion in this tale of lives torn asunder by the innate imperfections of human frailty. There is also a poignant acknowledgment that even the best of intentions can seldom stand up to the vicissitudes of life.

While the setting of this novel is contemporary, the issue addressed is as ancient as the human condition. Can we ever really control our lives or the lives of others? Nicholas is an ex-con who drives a taxi in and around Boston. Kathleen, the mother of Nicholas's child, is a paranoid schizophrenic. Kate is the child caught between her mother's insanity and her father's all too human inability to be all things to all people—including himself. Their relationship with one another and the people around them form the spine of this novel whose tentacles explore failure, abandonment, love, commitment, and more with searing intensity.

While the plot is less important than character development in this chronicle of lives in flux, Brown still does an exceptional job of providing revelations from chapter to chapter that help explain previous behavior or motivation. No false notes are played in her prose or dialogue. Her writing feels powerfully honest, and no stereotypes appear in her cast of characters. She has penned a story that will keep one reading relentlessly, not simply because of a desire to know how it all turns out, but because Brown makes her audience actually care about what happens to the people within her pages.

Honorable Mention in the 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award General Fiction Category.

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