Monday, September 10, 2018

FOLLOW THE SUN :: Edward J. Delaney

A version of this review first appeared in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

Edward J. Delaney's Follow the Sun opens with a funeral for a missing man, "reduced to objects. In lieu of a body, just left-behind things." Quinn Boyle had been "in hand-to-hand combat with Peace" since he was a kid; a lobsterman from the age of 17, "mud-footed in obligations he could not shed." Following years of addiction and a stint in prison, Quinn was clean and free, yet imprisoned by his history, responsibilities and the "daily grip of his work." One day, Quinn and his lone crewman, a longtime adversary, fail to return from the sea.

Older brother Robbie is once again forced to take up Quinn's slack while trapped in his own morass of exes, part-time fatherhood and thankless work. Torn by survivor's guilt and the relief of Quinn's absence, Robbie's fragile peace is rocked by a report that his brother's crewman may be alive, sparking his need to investigate what happened on Quinn's last run.

Delaney (Broken Irish) writes with well-honed grit and artful description, be it the "obvious misery" of lobstering, withdrawal, or a daughter trying to know her father by using library books on handwriting analysis to study his birthday card notes. It is a very masculine perspective, the women tending toward henpecking support-seekers and foils, yet the men aren't painted pretty. Everyone seems smothered by the atmosphere and hard-knock life of a small fishing town with few available dreams or modes of escape. Delaney is wonderfully adept at working that atmosphere on his characters with compelling results.

STREET SENSE: This is one of those books where the atmosphere and/or characters may make you squirm, you might not like them much, but it just doesn't matter. The themes of family and responsibility are, if not recognizable in this specific form, generally universal, and Delaney explores them well.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  We think we make an imprint in the world and then find out it's so small, as small as crab's feet at the edge of the ocean, washed away by each pulsing wave.

Eh, I liked this one, too, so what the hell, you get both:

Waiting on a boat isn't like waiting for a man to emerge from a prison, where the date is determined and the time must be passed with patience, but also with calculation. Waiting for a boat is like waiting for something to happen imminently, when it then does not...Waiting for a boat is different. It's a thousand false sightings and a rising anxiety in which you tell yourself you're overreacting. But then it turns out, sometimes, you're not.

COVER NERD SAYS: As an ocean nerd (and also, yet less of, a sailing nerd) along with a cover nerd, this one spoke to me. There's nothing supremely striking about it, no image or font that screams "Pick me!" It may miss an audience that interprets what's here as more seriously "maritime-ish" than this book is, an audience that would fall for the family drama. Then again, I suppose normal people (not me) read cover copy and will hopefully figure out this one IS more than its cover.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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