Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: "A Familiar Beast" by Panio Gianopoulos

In the wake of an affair gone wrong, Marcus has destroyed both his marriage and his career. Unsure of what he wants in his future, and paralyzed by feelings of loss, guilt, and loneliness, he winds up agreeing to visit Edgar, a former classmate, in North Carolina. He and Edgar haven't kept in touch over the years, but thanks to the wonders of social media, they were able to reconnect, and even though he isn't particularly enthusiastic about traveling across the country, Marcus makes the trip.

He finds that Edgar's life isn't much different than his own, although Edgar avoids talking about his problems in the typically stoic way men do. Left on his own in Edgar's big, lonely house, Marcus has far too much time to brood over the wreck of his life and his marriage, and confronting how far off course his life has gone. An encounter with a woman at a bar in North Carolina leaves him feeling more bewildered, guilty, and angry about all that has happened.

When Edgar proposes taking Marcus on a deer hunt, he agrees, despite his revulsion for killing anything, which has been an effective enough buffer to help him avoid hunting to this point. As he ponders a way to disentangle himself from yet another situation he has found himself in, he confronts an even greater challenge.

Panio Gianopoulos' A Familiar Beast is billed as a novella, and from what I've read on Amazon about the actual physical book, it's apparently a beautifully printed, 72-page long text. However, on my Kindle, it feels more like a slightly longer short story. But whatever you call it, Gianpoulos does a phenomenal job creating a memorable character in a familiar but complicated situation. He is a terrific writer and his use of language to convey emotions and events we've seen before is tremendously effective, and his storytelling really packs a punch in a short number of pages.

I've always said that the mark of a terrific short story is when you're left thinking about the character(s) and wondering what happened once the story ended, plus you're invested enough to want to read more. This was definitely the case with A Familiar Beast, and I look forward to seeing what else Gianopoulos writes in what I believe is a tremendously promising career.

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