A restaurant shootout disrupts ordinary lives, with extraordinary consequences.
When a gunman opens fire in a small restaurant, he kills two men and sends five of the survivors on a collision course with grief. Dr. Bruce Laraby misses the slaughter by minutes when he stops for coffee on his way to his shift at the emergency room. After the two gunshot victims die on his watch, his self-image as a competent doctor is destroyed; to compensate, he gambles with his wife's health to prove he deserves her love. Meanwhile, Anne Hagen and her high-school friend, Jimmy Jaspersen, form a conspiracy of silence after Anne's father is shot before their eyes. Anne transmutes her loss into religious ecstasy, while her pressure on Jimmy leads him to contemplate suicide. Driving-school owner Charlie Archenault marvels at surviving the shooting with a graze wound; he takes his good luck as a sign that he should gamble his life's savings at the roulette table. Carla Davenport, a struggling single mother and the restaurant's cashier, is so traumatized by the shooting that she neglects her croupy, ailing baby; wrapped in a fantasy that Dr. Laraby will rescue her, she loses her son to the child-welfare system. Against the backdrop of shabby strip malls, fast-food joints and the name-brand trappings that make up the characters’ everyday lives, an otherworldly, transcendent force—possibly the “winged creatures” of the title—guides each of the five survivors through debilitating trauma to healing and redemption. While the episodic shifts of perspective and the ubiquitous product placement shout movie adaptation—confirmed by the book cover, which announces a “major motion picture” in the works—the story builds to a suspenseful climax. The denouncement walks a thin line between happy-ever-after and disaster.
Songwriter and screenwriter Freirich’s debut novel offers an intriguing look at unique yet interrelated patterns of trauma and recovery.