"...an exploration of what a contemporary Job might look like, Chynoweth’s tale should more than satisfy."– Kirkus Reviews
A family saga that draws on the biblical tale of Cain and Abel.
In this novel, Chynoweth (The Runaway Prophet, 2016, etc.) modernizes a story in the Book of Genesis, grounding it in the characters’ emotional connections. The story follows Eliza and Alex Trellis, a couple with some surface-level problems in their marriage and a much deeper secret: They were both banished from their Navajo reservation, due to misguided choices that they made in their teens. The story then follows their two children, Cameron and his younger brother, Austin, as they grow into adulthood. Cameron, from the start, feels that Austin has it easier than he does, and this feeling only increases in high school when Austin finds success as a solo musical artist after playing for just one night in Cameron’s rock band. Then Cameron starts having troubles in his love life, and Austin begins dating Megan McGee, a girl that Cameron briefly dated in high school. The elder brother’s consuming jealousy eventually leads to ruin. Along the way, the novel explores Eliza’s understanding of her sons’ conflict, and Alex’s gambling addiction, among other issues. After a climactic tragedy, the author shows readers how her characters find ways to carry on—re-establishing trust, in some cases, but painstakingly slowly. Overall, Chynoweth manages to make the story feel incredibly visceral. She shows a talent for taking small details from the original Bible story, such as Eve’s surprising pregnancy later in life, and turning them into valuable plot developments; along the way, her characters learn from one another. The key to the novel’s success is the author’s ability to provide deep insights into her characters’ tumultuous mental states.
A bold, tragic, and emotionally exploratory drama.
Chynoweth (The Runaway Prophet, 2016, etc.) retells the biblical story of Job in this contemporary novel.
Seth Jacobs has everything a man could want: a 40-room mansion on 200 acres, a national chain of celebrated waterfront restaurants, wealth, influence, a beautiful wife, and accomplished and loving children. During a delay on the Boston subway, Seth considers how lucky he is to lead the life he does. Unfortunately, that life comes crashing down the moment Seth gets back above ground. He walks into his Boston restaurant to discover that a severe case of food poisoning has broken out among his customers: “He looked into the chandeliered main dining room and saw a hundred or so well-dressed men and women in different states of sickness, their faces contorted in varying degrees of pain.” One of the afflicted is a U.S. senator, who ends up dying as a result. Later that same night, his sons are involved in a car accident that leaves one in a coma and the other charged with driving while intoxicated. One by one, the pillars of support and fortune in Seth’s life begin to topple: he loses his family, his business, and even his health. Like the protagonist in the Book of Job, Seth sees his life utterly destroyed. The only question that remains is whether his faith has been demolished as well. Chynoweth constructs—and then deconstructs —Seth’s life with an eye for detail and an inventive sense of how one tragedy can beget the next. While Seth’s existence is depicted as almost cartoonishly lavish at the beginning (and the protagonist portrayed as cloyingly virtuous), once his trials begin the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for him. The book is a fairly faithful expansion of the familiar story of Job, and so things unfold in a more or less predictable fashion. Those looking for twists and turns may become a bit bored with the archetypical plot, but for readers content with an exploration of what a contemporary Job might look like, Chynoweth’s tale should more than satisfy.
A well-constructed, if rather straightforward, modern adaptation of the Book of Job.