Garvin depicts the splendor and squalor of both the natural and human worlds in this debut literary novel.
Zachariah Aaron Nance at first appears to be set up for a simple life. Born and raised in Durango, Colorado, he begins life knowing the feeling of dirt under his fingernails, sweat on his brow, and God in his heart. His childhood is split between the natural world and the town and his family. Zach’s father is a salt-of-the-earth type, taking odd jobs across local farms to support the family financially, while Zach’s mother’s strong ties to the Baptist church and the community support them spiritually. Zach’s trials and tribulations also at first seem like the expected hazards of being a growing boy—trouble with school, an eye for mischief, and a hint of the angst that comes of being a middle child. But while there’s youthful joy in small-town living, there’s also poison under its skin in the forms of poverty, alcoholism, racism, and homophobia. When tragedy strikes the family, his father withdraws into drinking, his mother into religion, and Zach loses his fragile grip on the world as he struggles with this fractured clan, the fortitude and responsibility it requires, and his own identity. The writing in this novel is excellent, a mix of clear, no-nonsense storytelling to move the narrative forward and vibrant, nigh-poetic language to describe the play of sunlight, water, dust, greenery, and human beings that make up Zach’s universe (“Colorado mornings on the brink of spring begin with a deep purple reflection rising low on the horizon. The lavender glow spreads out and up as dawn slowly consumes the fading night....The season’s bitter freeze begins its gradual thaw, and the forest floor and frozen tundra welcome the new warmth”). At the same time, the story bravely and honestly delves into the existential questions and trials of faith that Zach undergoes, from a childhood fever dream where he’s visited by Jesus to his more conscious realizations of the unfairness of the world and what God’s role in such a place could be. Finally, straightforward, genuine dialogue gives voice and individuality to the vivid cast of characters. Zach’s joy, pain, longing, and isolation are real and palpable throughout, and every piece of the story and setting only furthers the life and experience bled onto the page.
A striking tale of coming-of-age, loss, sexuality, and self-discovery, filled with rich characters.