The Narrows, Miles Deep: An amazing review to start 2013

I’m starting off 2013 with an amazing review I received yesterday from Indie Reviews. She sent a follow up saying that the novella and stories will be in her Best of 2012 list as well. Thanks for this very thoughtful and lovely review!

Narrows Cover 2.5The Narrows, Miles Deep by Tom Schabarum consists of the title novella and three unrelated short stories: My Kid in FootlightsThe Road to Alaskaand Follow Me Through.

The novella, The Narrows, Miles Deep, is the beautifully written and heartrending story of Eric Morris and Roy Bancroft, lovers who parted ways some four years ago when Eric joined his family’s business as a trucker and relocated from Utah to Las Vegas and Roy remained in Salt Lake City to be near the mountains and continue working in a small engineering firm. Eric and Roy have arranged a reunion camping trip in The Narrows Zion National Park in the hopes of rekindling their relationship.

Set primarily in Salt Lake City and southern Utah the story takes place during the 1980s and both begins and ends in the present but unfolds in a non-linear retrospective fashion. The story is divided into four parts tracing the lives of Eric and Roy, their respective childhood and adolescence, their relationships with family and friends, their first meeting and the evolution of their relationship through the first person narration of several secondary characters, among others, Eric’s parents, Roy’s father and Eric’s best friends. Characterisation in further heightened through Roy’s extremely intimate third person introspection and through Eric’s somewhat more muted thoughts.

Great insight into both Eric and Roy is gained through the alternating narratives and voices of friends, family and old lovers, and complemented by the introspection of the main characters as Eric and Roy are explored from all sides. As the story unfolds the circumstances of both characters’ lives are revealed and the layers of the events and life experiences that have shaped them are slowly peeled away.

We learn of Eric’s struggle with his commitment to his Mormon faith in the face of his religion’s blatant homophobia and overall hypocrisy and his inability to reconcile this with who and what he is, as well as his fear of coming out to his family, leading him to abandon the Mormon Church altogether and distance himself from his family. In many ways this struggle defines Eric and influences his life choices and decisions, which ultimately impact his relationship with Roy, as he is hesitant and fearful of fully revealing himself to his lover.

“When Eric came off his mission he moved to Salt Lake City and began working and going to school up there. He came home from serving the church different. After two years, he was still gentle and sweet, but was unsure of himself where most of the other local boys came back with plans, married old girlfriends, started families. Eric just wanted to get away. I didn’t understand, but I suppose the thing to do was just let him be. I wish I had gone slower when I was his age. I didn’t want him to miss a thing.”

We also come to know and understand Roy’s deep emotional pain caused by the loss of his twin brother, abandonment by his mother and his father’s failings as a parent brought on by his own pain at the loss of his son and wife. These losses have had a seminal impact on Roy and his ability for emotional intimacy. Roy prefers his solitude and is initially quite tentative in his relationship with Eric. And yet by his own admission, his meeting of Eric stopped his world on its very axis and in Eric he finds solace from the loneliness he’s felt his entire life.

“Eric’s touch came back to him. Like his mother’s: lightly on the forehead. He began to think of her, to equate her smell with the smells of the canyon. He’d lost the specifics of her years ago so that now she came to him unfocused. The weight of her shape lingered in his mind, however, and he could remember her warmth when she bent over him before he went to sleep, or came up behind him to see what he was doing at the table. It was her warmth that wouldn’t leave him. Years went by and no matter what he did it still clung to him until last night, when it was replaced by Eric’s. He felt a kind of freedom now, a lightness. He brought his hands together as if in prayer. He smiled, and then wept.”

As the story takes place during the 1980s the spectre of HIV/AIDS hovers and looms throughout as an ominous intruder that will impact the lives of the entire cast of characters.

Mr. Schabarum’s writing style is literary and poetic, but at the same time quite elemental in nature cutting to the heart of Eric and Roy and their hopes and fears as they navigate both their lives and relationships without melodrama or cliché. I was completely immersed in this story from the very first paragraph and read it in one sitting. Far from muting the emotional magnitude and impact of their story, the unassuming and introspective qualities of Mr. Schabarum’s writing achieve the opposite and provide for an extremely powerful reading experience.

The Narrows, Miles Deep is a multi-layered story with several emerging themes. As much as it is a story about the Eric and Roy’s journey and relationship, it is also a story that interweaves such themes as coming out and coming of age, homophobia, religion, parenting and family relationships, life choices, HIV/AIDS, loss and letting go. Ultimately, the overarching theme of this story is about the fragility of love. I truly loved this story and despite its tragic ending, found much beauty in the sadness of Eric and Roy’s journey. While unrelated, the three accompanying short stories are equally well written and carry with them similar themes as the novella.

I am excited at the discovery of Mr. Schabarum’s writing and look forward to reading his debut novel The Palisades. I highly recommend The Narrows, Miles Deep without any hesitation.

The Narrows, Miles Deep by Tom Schabarum is available at Amazon.

Music: Falling Slowly – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (Once, 2007)

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Slate

In light of today’s hearing on Arizona’s immigration law. The photograph above was taken where my Great Grandfather was born and raised in Kaisersesh, Germany.

Slate

We come from slate, rock shale mined by German hands upending earth,

ripping out hard mountain hearts leaving earth’s crust opened, wounded.

 

Between world wars our father’s fathers began building an American hearth,

for found wives, children, creating cities, engineering torrents of work grounded

 

in tradition. Decades streamed by, farms and front porches defined worth.

Our soil slipped away, separating families over oceans, driving the unfounded

 

history of shale locked in grey, our hands, our eyes, now lifting on the Fourth,

but dreaming home’s black forests, town squares, church steeples bounded

 

on all sides by time’s relentless tick. Immigration expands this country’s girth

and we are richer for it, though we build cement walls after sirens sounded

 

our ancestors’ arrivals.  Brick by brick and wire, blade sharp, swirls across earth,

making our country a prison while new immigrants hopes are unaccounted.

Grandmother; Leaving

ImageThere are very few people that one has an elemental connection with during their lifetimes. For all of my life, mine was with my grandmother. We just knew each other, and there was such a deep love between us that it’s hard for me to impart the knowledge of it on to people. The only thing I can say is, is that I hope that each one of you has, or has had someone that you’ve connected with on as deep a level.

Simply put, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Grandmother. When I went to live with her 30 years ago, I was at such odds with the world that I didn’t know what I would do. And Grandmother had just lost her soul-mate in my Grandfather . They were married 40 years. She asked me to come live with her at the house in Santa Barbara while I was going to college, and I had some trepidation at first for many reasons, chief among them was that I was young and going to college! We said we’d see in six months if it was going well and re-think then whether it was such a good idea. Six months came and went and we laughed about it and lived together for another two and a half years while we both picked up our lives and moved on.

When I moved back to Santa Barbara after several years, she was in her eighties and I spent a lot of time taking her places and just hanging out with her. We walked on the beach many times, and shared many meals. Our favorite beach walk was on Thanksgiving mornings where there were free donuts and coffee courtesy of the beach restaurant that no longer is there.

There were times of great loss: my Grandfather, Jack Curtice, their house in a catastrophic firestorm, and two of her step-children passed before she did. Luckily, my Uncle Jim was able to see her through these last years with much care.

I have so many great memories of her that it’s hard to pick just one. She made me Thanksgiving dinner for my birthdays, called all the neighbors to come buy lemonade from our stand outside her house when I was little, and the many times we sat out on the back porch with her Gewurztraminer wine and just talk as the sun set over the hills and ocean you could once see from her back porch.

But there is one memory I have that towers above all others – bringing champagne and strawberries to her in Tucker’s Grove after she’d run six miles on her sixtieth birthday. It was a beautiful May day in the park. She was so full of life and achievement having run the entire way, and it seemed at that moment both of our lives opened up to the years ahead.

Today she passed away. She lived an extraordinarily giving life. Many people will remember her generosity of spirit. I’ll remember the clinking of two champagne glasses, the sweet taste of strawberries, and her bright blue eyes that seemed to know everything about me.

Grandmother; Leaving

On this emerald isle

of every shade of green

and blue beyond,

I’m thinking of your aged,

textured hands In mine –

wisdom’s fingers pulling away.

Nothing to tie to now but memories:

A looking glass’ reach,

the air palpable as cotton,

sea spray through your hair.

Something is left and returned to:

your blue scarf elegantly draped,

a clock’s key found in ashes,

Heat-fused silver that touched

the mouths of family:

each voice drifting into words,

which are merely sounds now.

We know what they mean, your vowels

Stretching out across years.

We hang on every muttered,

unintelligible consonant.

Even your breath, when it catches, is beautiful.

Days slow as night quickens forward

while we wait for a generation

to pass into white.

The Palisades receives another 5 star review

As a writer, it’s always amazing to receive great reviews from readers far away that you don’t know, but who take the time to comment on a book on Amazon. So wonderful!

“If you want to read a story well told and extremely well written, this is it. Tom Schabarum opens the family dynamics in this story in a way that draws one in. His ability to give one a beautiful vision of the area and still make you focus on the details of the story are extremely well written. This is a book that digs deep into family conflict, love, disappointment, and compassion. A must read.” Charlene Haugen, MN

Download a copy of The Palisades for yourself here! http://www.amazon.com/The-Palisades-ebook/product-reviews/B0033PSLB4/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?

Grandmother; Leaving

On this emerald isle of every shade

Of green and blue beyond, I’m

Thinking of aged textured hands

In mine; wisdom’s fingers pulling away.

Nothing to tie to now but memories:

A looking glass’ reach, the air palpable

As cotton, sea through her hair,

Something left and returned to, her blue

Scarf elegantly draped, a clock’s key found

In ashes. Heat-fused silver, touching the

Mouths of family, each voice drifting

Into words that are merely sounds now.

We know what they mean, these vowels

Stretching out across years. We hang on

Every muttered, unintelligible consonant.

Even her breath, when it catches, is beautiful.

Days slow as night quickens forward while

We wait for a generation to pass into white.