The Speed of Life by James Jordan

The Speed of Life

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Fate seems to be directing the lives of people with varying connections to a Florida federal prosecutor’s rape in this debut drama.

The morning after someone brutally attacks and rapes attorney Estella Verus, she’s shocked to learn that cops have arrested her son Andrew as an accomplice. The 20-year-old man is a bright, athletic college graduate but with his share of troubles, having already faced charges of LSD possession. Police theorize that Andrew told the assailant his mother was home alone and where to find the gun used in the attack, but Estella refuses to believe that Andrew’s guilty. The story spins off into the lives of correlating characters, including Georges Bohem, one of Andrew’s lawyers, and Estella’s boss, Aurora Goldin. Georges was enamored with Aurora years ago in high school, and since then his relationships and marriage have fizzled out. Others are linked to the rape victim via the legal system: Estella, post-attack, is prosecuting Ismael Erasmus, who (supposedly) brought stolen diamonds into the United States—stones that reputed courier Andrew failed to deliver. Before Andrew was even born, his great-grandmother Sarah Abiaka, a Seminole medicine woman, predicted that the boy would be evil, like his father, and someday hurt Estella. But even if no one can escape the past, one character, who may have seen what’s to come, hopes to do the unthinkable: change the future. The novel initially feels like short stories, repeatedly switching characters and first/third-person perspectives. Jordan deftly retains comprehension throughout, an impressive feat because flashbacks often start with nary a warning. There’s an abundance of characters philosophizing, courtesy of a variety of beliefs from astronomy to shamanism. The story treats each deferentially, spotlighting firm believers such as Estella’s aunt Charlotte Crow, who’s certain that Andrew’s power animal, Eagle, has taken the young man’s voice. Jordan’s narrative occasionally slips into cold detachment: one chapter is, verbatim, a court document related to Andrew’s case. Descriptions, nevertheless, are primarily images that Jordan sears onto the pages. Neurologist Dr. Ras Demeke, for example, dreams of “children climbing over corpses, searching for their parents, unable to find them.”

A leisurely paced story filled with insights that will leave readers musing as much as the characters.

Publisher: Turning Leaf Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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