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Smooth as Barrel-aged Whiskey
James Dall is an alcoholic slacker whose weaknesses are women and whiskey. He tells himself that he’s a good guy because he goes to church every Sunday. Not the same church. And never long enough for the congregants to get to know him. He makes a habit of arriving late and leaving early. Truth is, he’s just there for the free coffee. His free-time is dedicated to writing the great American novel and chasing women.
At age 29, James has yet to settle into a career or even a decent job. He works part-time, writing one column a week for a smalltime newspaper and has another part-time job waiting tables at a local café. Work days are punctuated by clocking in late, clocking out early, and drinking on the job.
As the novel opens, the reader is introduced to the three women in James’s life: a former girlfriend he keeps stringing along because he likes having a back-up booty call, an unpredictable goth-girl good for no-strings-attached hook-ups who interns at paper where he works, and a hottie he obsesses over, despite the fact that she’s a co-worker at the café, clearly not interested, and already has a boyfriend.
James is certain his big-break has finally arrived when he lands an interview with a Seattle arts magazine. During the worst week in his life, the games he’d being playing with the women backfire. Amber won’t return his calls because she’s moved on and is seeing someone else. Turns out, his no-strings-attached arrangement with the intern has strings, big ones, and she’s been playing him for a fool. And a confrontation with the hottie’s boyfriend leaves James sporting a black-eye to the big interview. All this results in soul-searching.
Fearing that I’d been duped into reading the expanded version of a religious tract, complete with a morality story and a cringe-worthy come-to-Jesus moment, I was grateful when the author turned the story on its head. Answers are elusive and not found in familiar places. Ultimately, James leaves town, accompanied by his truest companions: Jack Daniels, Jim Bean, and Elijah Craig. (Actually, it was Wild Turkey, but he’ll drink the others, too.)
The book is as smooth as barrel-aged whiskey. Easily digested, I finished it in just three sittings. It’s an ideal summer read, skirting around heavy issues that the reader can just as easily contemplate as ignore. The only thing that really bothered me about the book was the absence of any mention of condoms, which in today’s day and age, seems not only reckless, but unbelievable.
The author, Matt Edwards, is a born and raised Boise, Idaho native. After studying English at Boise State University, Matt landed a high school teaching job in the Boise area, where he lives with his wife and son. He has developed an affinity for literature: both the challenge of understanding it and the potential to be understood through it. He trains for marathons when he’s not busy writing his own fiction and poetry. Ways and Truths and Lives is his first novel.
*This review was completed using an advance reader copy of uncorrected proofs.