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.