Review: A Lovely, Indecent Departure by Steven Lee Gilbert

51LNWMb7gDLReview by Manda Disley

Anna Miller is a mother who is desperate to be with her young son, Oliver, and keep him safe. Unfortunately, her abusive ex-husband has primary custody of him and does everything he can to keep them apart. The court system has failed her, and on one of her days with Oliver she decides to take drastic measures – they flee the country to live in Italy, where Anna is from. A Lovely, Indecent Departure tells the sequence of events that follows this decision.

The book is written in third person and switches with each chapter between three characters: Anna, her ex-husband Evan, and Monroe, the town sheriff. Gilbert’s writing has a lot of promise; his sentences flow together easily and the overall writing style stays consistent through the book. One of the first things the reader will notice, however, is that the dialogue lacks any quotation marks. If this is a stylistic choice that the author has made, it’s not a very good one. There is a reason we use quotation marks to denote dialogue. Without it the book reads like endless prose, and endless prose can get quite tiresome. The lack of quotation marks also makes it difficult at times to tell what is and isn’t dialogue, while also making whatever is being said seem unimportant. Quotation marks are a type of punctuation, and punctuation tells us how significant something is – without it, the dialogue falls flat.

Another issue with the book is its wordiness. While some readers might enjoy the extra descriptions, this book has a lot of extraneous details that just aren’t important to the storyline. You could argue that these details add to mood of the book, but mostly they just take away from the actual plot.

The story itself is interesting, though; a great exploration into the tragic privates lives of this family. The characters are complex and read like real people. Although Anna technically kidnapped her son, seeing the situation through her eyes gives us the chance to recognize that she only did it out of love. We’re also get to be inside of Evan’s head, and it becomes very clear, very quickly that he is not the kind of man you would want to leave your child with. It’s hard for the reader to fault Anna for what she did, despite breaking the law.

Overall, the book could have used some work, including the addition of quotation marks, but it’s not a bad piece of fiction. Gilbert’s writing has a lot of potential and he writes characters very well. It will be interesting to see what he writes in the future.

Title: A Lovely, Indecent Departure

Author: Steven Lee Gilbert

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publication: Steven Lee Gilbert (March 23, 2012)

Price: $2.99 (e-book, all formats), $9.13 (paperback )

Author’s Website: http://stevenleegilbert.com/

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REVIEW: Funeral with a View by Matt Schiariti

funeral with a view“Thirty-two-year-old Richard Franchitti didn’t believe in love at first sight until he met free-spirited Catherine and started a brand new life. A devoted father and husband, Richard fought to keep his family together when it would have been easier to walk away.

Tragedy left him with unfinished business.

Now a disembodied spirit, Richard relives his most important days. From the beginnings of unconditional love, to the joy of his daughter’s birth, and all of the difficult times in between, each treasured moment brings him closer to answering the question: ‘Why am I still here?’

He was born Richard Franchitti, but his friends call him Ricky. Welcome to his funeral.” –Amazon.com

As I read the opening scene of Funeral with a View, I braced myself for a depressing read. After all, it’s hard to expect a happy ending when the main character starts off the book by dying. But Matt Schiariti’s second full-length novel surprised me by being both less gloomy and more heart-wrenching than I expected.

Ricky and Cat are ordinary people, and their story is an ordinary one, with a few twists. What makes it extraordinary is the way it’s told. Ricky is the narrator of his own story, from beyond the grave—or, to be more accurate, slightly above it. The chapters switch between scenes of Ricky observing his own viewing and graveside service and extended flashbacks of the years before his untimely death-by-beer-truck. Schiariti ties each flashback into the current events in such a way that the story flows smoothly: past and present each inform the other, adding emotional depth to the story as a whole.

Another distinguishing feature of the narrative is Ricky’s voice. Even when he’s observing the events taking place rather than participating in them, it’s impossible to mistake him for some nondescript voice-over; his individuality comes through in unique speech patterns, expressions, and metaphors that both fit the character and enrich our view of him.

By the end of the book I was invested, engrossed, and, as Schiariti no doubt intended, a bit wrecked. The story did manage to end on a slightly uplifting, even hopeful note, which somehow made it all the more gutting. In the hands of another author, this tale might have fallen tragically flat—in Schiariti’s, it’s one that I’ll no doubt pick up again the next time I need a cathartic cry.

Title: Funeral with a View
Author: Matt Schiariti
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Price: $3.99 (Kindle)
Author’s Website: http://mattschiariti.blogspot.com/

Review: From These Ashes by Tamela Ritter

From These AshesBrother and sister Tim and Naomi West are both lost, in their own ways.  Tim wakes up in a forest, alone and with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He sets out on a rambling path, hoping to regain his memories and eventually find his way home.

Meanwhile, Naomi is at a cult recovery center in Arizona, refusing to speak as she maps out the trails that let her there, and waits for Tim to find her again.

This is the best book I’ve ever hated reading. It ripped my heart completely out of my chest.  I defy any reader to come away from this story without an intense emotional connection to the characters, and an equally intense empathy for their circumstances.

There is a parallel here between Naomi’s disappointment with her mother’s failure to live up to her parental role, and Tim’s disappointment in the Native culture he idealizes not living up to its traditions.  The two siblings deal with their betrayal in completely different ways; Naomi becomes harder, walling herself off, while Tim keeps searching, with increasing desperation for his place.  This pattern, which begins early in their life, becomes literal after the events that lead to the beginning of the book.  Naomi is living behind a wall of silence, while Tim ranges the American West, looking for someplace to call home.

Ritter’s writing is beautiful, expressive and flawless.  She paints urban and rural settings with equal skill, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the story.

This is a book you can’t afford to miss, but be sure to have a box of tissues with you when you crack it open!

 

Title:  From These Ashes

Author:  Tamela Ritter

Genre:  Literary Fiction

Publication: Battered Suitcase Press (February 27, 2013)

Price:  $4.99 (ebook, all formats), $14.15 (paperback)

Author’s Website:  http://tamelajritter.com/