Thursday, March 13, 2014
Book Review: "Ways of Leaving" by Grant Jarrett
Chase Stoller's life is kind of falling apart. He's lost his job as a reporter, his marriage is over in all but the legal sense, and to top it off, his estranged father has just died. He now must return to his hometown in the Poconos, a place he doesn't have many warm feelings for, and face his unresolved feelings about his childhood. Plus, his brother, Aaron, resents him for not being around much and forcing him to care for their father, and Chase's beloved sister, Hannah, has been languishing in a mental institution. It's understandable why Chase has stayed away so long, isn't it?
Growing up with a distant, disengaged father and a mother barely able to contain her simmering rage and depression, Chase really only had Hannah to turn to and protect him, and the two were inseparable until mental illness took hold of her life. And Chase certainly has his own problemshe's addicted to sex and alcohol, has a bit of a rage issue, and his self-destructive tendencies manifest themselves mainly in uncontrollable sarcasm and not knowing when to be quiet. His return home is marked by more than a little bit of abuse (both self-inflicted and inflicted by others), not to mention unabashed flirting and and a few sexual encounters, with an old girlfriend and a fragile, married woman.
"Perhaps everyone found comfort in convenient little myths created out of need, out of desperation. Or maybe some lives were truly wholesome, replete with the rich, sustaining byproducts of love. But what did it matter? Searching for answers was like studying a map after arriving at your final destination. All the information in the world wouldn't alter where he was or what he'd become."
Chase recognizes the problems he sees around himhis brother is so self-centered and self-righteous that he doesn't see how fragile his young children are, and he desperately wants to help his sister out of the catatonia all of her medications have her in, and perhaps bring her back to some semblance of how she used to be. But at the same time, Chase can't seem to help himself. He knows he has problems, he thinks he understands the root of them, but he can't seem to pull himself off the path he's on. He wants to love and be loved but doesn't want the emotional entanglement of relationships, because relationships hurt. He wonders if it would just be better if he died, but he's not courageous enough to take his own life. But it takes a decision only he can make to push him onto a road that might help him recoveror destroy him completely.
I really enjoyed this book so much. Grant Jarrett's writing style reminded me a lot of Jonathan Tropper's, and I really liked the way he developed his characters, particularly Chase. The dialogue is funny, sarcastic, and sensitive at times, and while you may wonder if one person really could find himself in that much trouble all the time, every time Chase opens his mouth or does something, you can see why people have the desire to hit him. Ways of Leaving definitely made me laugh a lot, but it also was poignant and emotional in places.
"Do we all just eventually give up, take what comes to us, convince ourselves it's what we've always wanted and get on with whatever our sad little lives have become because, well, because that's what we do?"
If you like books that combine comedy and emotion with some great storytelling, definitely pick up Ways of Leaving. You may not love Chase's character, but you won't be able to keep away from his misadventures just getting through life.