A harrowing sequel to the acclaimed The Kindness of Ravens (2012) that features a cast of broken, despairing characters.
Three years after the events of the previous novel, antihero Daren has recovered from substance abuse and addiction and is now ready to save others. Through his work as a counselor at the Santa Crisca Residential Institute for the Developmentally Disabled, he meets devastating victims of abuse and bad luck. His unit is comprised of six teenagers who share an array of emotional disabilities. It’s a troubling caseload, but Daren calls upon his own losses and insights and manages to navigate their problems effectively. However, as he gets to know the staff members at the institute—Heather, Alex, Janet, Rebecca and Casey—their struggles soon consume him. As their compulsions, secrets and complications escalate, and Daren pursues his own flirtation with Casey, he also forms a bond with the sharp-tongued Tara Martinez (described as “a raven, lost, wanton, a shaggy aristocrat of a lonely ward”), who’s a victim of intense neglect and abuse. Her at-risk behavior has her headed toward a desperate future unless Daren and the staff can intervene: “What I know is, if we don’t save her, nobody will,” Daren says. His determination to keep Tara safe blurs together with his own needs; when he helps others, he helps himself. Bardessono has a sharp eye for detail and characterization, and he offers an insightful, elegant tale of human behavior and suffering. Through his depiction of Daren’s sensitivity and self-awareness, the story emerges as a multilayered commentary on how society fails its derelicts as they struggle to achieve their own actualization. Daren’s patients and friends provide a colorful backdrop to his tale of redemption.
An intriguing novel about how emotional problems can serve as opportunities for growth.