Sunday, June 1, 2014

Shaking Out the Dead, by K. M. Cholewa

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611881431, June 2014

Paris, Tatum, and Geneva are all struggling with love--what it is, and whether they have it. Tatum and Geneva have complicated personal histories, and it's sort of implied that Paris does too, though we don't learn much about his past.

Tatum, in her mid-thirties, is estranged from her family, which is to say her sister, has found that she always fails at love--there is no doubt in her mind that it's her failure, that she is in some way invincibly unlovable--and has failed at suicide a number of times. Most recently, she has had a failed love affair with Vincent, son of an old friend of Geneva's, and survived breast cancer by means of a mastectomy. She of course did not have reconstructive surgery following the mastectomy. Her sister has just died, and she is about to become responsible for her niece, Rachel.

Geneva is in her early sixties, has been making regular visits to her husband, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer's, and is trying to figure out why she never felt loved by him, even though she "knows" he loved her.

Paris is an aspiring young artist, in his late twenties, who is experiencing the artist's equivalent of writer's block, and working the night shift in a diner. He's in love with Tatum, or thinks he is, and is afraid to tell her.

The writing is very good, it really is. You will feel you intimately know these people's inner lives.

Unfortunately, this is literary fiction, where the writer gets demerits if the characters collectively have the good sense God gave a gnat. They make a fair effort at being decent human beings--for instance, they all do their best for orphaned eight-year-old Rachel. It's too bad they twist themselves into knots, keeping themselves and each other unhappy, for no reason that makes sense in terms of their own wants and desires, or the behavior of real human beings. If you allow yourself to care, you'll be on tenterhooks waiting to see if any of them can salvage themselves and achieve some degree of lasting happiness.

But if you like literary fiction, the writing here is excellent. You will care about these characters, like them, and want something better for them than they appear to be able to want for themselves.

Recommended for fans of the genre.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.