Sunday, November 13, 2005

Book Review – “Immoral” – A Novel by Brian Freeman

Make note of the name Brian Freeman; you will hear from him in the future. He has just published his first novel, and it is a spectacular literary debut. This weekend I finished reading this page-turner, and my mind is still spinning from the clever plot twists, brilliant insights into human relationships and surprising but plausible character development.

From the story’s primarily setting in Duluth in northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, Freeman mines a mother lode of suspense and creates a cauldron of intrigue that smelts together the lives of a cast of Technicolor characters worthy of Dickens. As the action moves to the arid landscape of Las Vegas, the exposition of the storyline reveals desiccated lives that devolve into deaths in the desert – both literal and metaphorical.

The plot has more than its share of red herrings; apparently minor characters step forward to play a more important role than the reader could have anticipated. Plot developments spring from seeds that were innocuously planted in the opening chapters. This is a fully satisfying mystery about the disappearance of two teenage girls, but the strength of Freeman’s writing does not lie in the development of his plot. The source of his strength is his ability to bring a literary sensibility to bear upon his sympathetic understanding and portrayal of individual and familial dysfunction. In this regard, he stands proudly on the shoulders of Dostoyevsky – and that is a compliment and a judgment I do not bestow lightly. Like the complex characters that inhabit Dostoyevsky’s novels, Freeman’s fictional men, women and children all exhibit the moral ambiguity that gives credence to the truth that the line between good and evil runs through the center of each human heart.

Here is a sample of Freeman’s prose:

Bob rubbed his long beard and pulled at the tangles. He put a finger to his head like a gun and pulled the trigger.

“You’re planning to kill yourself?” Serena asked. “Why?”

Bob turned to Stride and smiled darkly, as if sharing a secret joke. “You know.”

“How would I know?”

“You’re a man. Why does a man do anything?”

“A woman,” Stride said.

Serena leaned closer to Bob. “Are you talking about Christi?”

Bob’s anger subsided, and he looked wistful. His voice cracked as he stared at Serena. “You look a little bit like her. She had green eyes, like you. But hers were cold. She destroyed me. I mean, just look around. Look at my life. But if I could get her back, I’d go through this hell all over again.”

Serena’s eyes narrowed. “You want her that much? She was that good?”

“Not good. She was never good. She was evil.”

“What was it?” Serena asked. “Did she reject you?”

Bob laughed wildly. “If only it were that f**king simple! It’s like having the keys to the palace, okay? And then one day they change the locks. And you look back and you realize you gave up everything, destroyed everyone around you for a fantasy.”
(Page 342)

This book is a work of art that both delights and disturbs – an apt reflection of the world it describes. I can’t wait for Freeman’s next offering.



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