Scott Blackwood‘s debut novel is far from typical. Imagine Carver and Marquez having a child together, and then Lynch raising it as his own.
Instead of a straightforward narrative, Blackwood offers shattering glimpses into the fractured lives of interconnected people in Austin, Texas. At once haunting and heart-rending, Blackwood’s lyrical passages are filled with microscopic epiphanies of perspective. He finds and focuses on the transcendent in everyday instances and gestures.
Two people have gone missing. The neighborhood sweatheart, Natalie Branch, a sultry-yet-naive lifeguard at the town’s iconic public pool. And Odie Dodd, an elderly physician who witnessed the aftermath of the Jonestown Massacre firsthand before he retired.
The disappearances are Blackwood’s catalyst for stepping inside the all-too-human minds of his characters, all of whom struggle with feelings of grief for lives-not-lived, for stillborn dreams and futures that might have been. Disillusioned with their present, the past begins to glow, no matter how traumatic. There are traces of magical realism, sometimes implied, sometimes showcased.
The novel isn’t for the faint of heart. Blackwood’s zen-like meditations on what it means to be human are emotionally challenging. A rampant sense of loss and forboding fills the neighborhood like a cold fog. And the diverse cast may have you re-reading pages just to keep up with who’s who. But patient readers are ultimately rewarded with a moving reflection on joy, grief, life, and death. Sure, he’s my professor (and my boss), but I genuinely recommend this book wholeheartedly.