Paul Martin Midden
Whitmann Blair Publishing, February 2020
This is a novel about relationships, as are most novels. Riley follows that pattern, but at much more nuanced depth. It is a deep, carefully constructed story about the title character, Riley, a writer, and several of her relationships. What sets this novel apart is the circumstance of the story and the unusual dimensions. Here is a narrative that exists on more than one level.
Riley is a novelist, living in Washington, D.C. and separated from her husband whom she is about to divorce. As she adjusts to her single life and pursues the story line in writing her second novel, she discovers parallels to her own circumstances, some of which are supporting, others disturbing, in the life of her novel’s principal character. At times she seems unsure whether she is dealing with her own circumstances or those of Suzanne, her novel’s protagonist.
After a sudden, out-of-character erotic encounter, Riley feels perplexed and seeks counseling from friends and from professionals. Readers are thus positioned on multiple bluffs following many characters in often deep and penetrating development of character and relationships.
The web of this novel is multi-layered and rife with a complex blend of life and fantasy. Authors will recognize sometimes fraught circumstances as they struggle to sort out the fictional lives of their characters from the realities of life. The judicious progress of many relationships in the story are testimony to the care with which this narrative is constructed. In every chapter, step by inexorable step, readers will be drawn to follow, not just Riley’s journey, but those of other characters as well.
Nicely written, the multiple plots are all well dealt with and the several conclusions are satisfying. In sum, here is a well-designed complicated canvas of several problematic intersecting lives.