City of Refuge, my first novel, is a look at grief, how people cope with grief and how that can have long-term effects.
The story takes place in small town Oklahoma and spans nearly forty years in the life of the main character, James Matthews. In 1982, he is a typical ten year, dealing with an over protective mother, bullies and a world that is beginning to open up to his inquisitive mind. That is, until he is confronted with the accidental death of his beloved older brother, an event that is based upon my own brother's death when I was eight years old.
The first section is very traditional in its style, a novella unto itself.
The second section rejoins James ten years later. He is a college student who is beginning to be sceptical of everything his parents stand for and believe. The death of his eldest brother left him to be victimized by his other brother, a bully. His mother has become, at least superficially so, hyper-religious, his dad is lost in his work and his brother is now a family man. James sees nothing but hypocrisy in them all and, as a result, has spent years withdrawing from them and now is unable to have relationships of any depth or meaning. He spends his time wondering what if, alleviating his ennui with alcohol and sex, and, oh yeah, his job cleaning road kill from the state highway.
The second section is written as a series of seemingly unrelated short stories. They are less about narrative than they are about showing the devolpment of the psyches of the characters involved.
The third section rejoins James at 29 years old. He is older, but no more mature. He is married, but still living a life that revolves around seeking but not finding pleasure, ways to numb his soul. He is employed at the most mind numbing, soul depleting job in the world - a telemarketer for a multi-level marketing company. This section ends with James being confronted by a life beyond his own and sets him at a crossroad that leaves him precariously balanced between life and death.
This section will largely abandon traditional story telling and be more stream of conscious - a true look into the mind of the character.
The whole of the story is 'bookended' by James, now, looking back and trying to come to terms with who he is and the choices he has made in his life.
Along the way we will see the story of James' home town, Konawa, Oklahoma. A small town that, like the American Dream, has fallen upon hard times and is doing everything it can to survive.
Look Homeward, Angel - Thomas Wolfe
Ulysses - James Joyce
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstory
The Nick Adams Stories - Ernest Hemingway
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