There must be something in the water that Stephen King’s family is drinking.
King is currently in a bit of a second renaissance, producing some of the best work of his career. Then there’s his son, Joe Hill, who with Horns and NOS4A2 has rocketed onto my authors to watch list and earned the same distinction has his famous father of “I will read everything he writes.”
Add to the list of talented authors in the King family tree, his daughter-in-law Kelly Braffet. Her latest novel Save Yourself wasn’t just one of the best novels I’ve read all year. It was one of those books that is so good, so absorbing and so utterly readable that it set unrealistic expectations for the next book or two I read to try and equal or top.
Save Yourself is kind of like watching a season of Breaking Bad on DVD or streaming. You keep telling yourself you’ll just do one more chapter or episode, only to find yourself still going hours later, even though you’ve got other pressing things that need to be done like eat, sleep or continue to be gainfully employed.
Yes, Save Yourself is just that good.
And yet, it’s not a story that you’ll necessarily feel better about yourself or humanity as a whole after you’re done reading. Packed with anti-heroes, the novel follows several threads all through to their inevitable and violent conclusion. Patrick Cusimano is facing some demons including a drinking habit, a dead-end job and the fact that he’s in love with his brother’s live in girlfriend. It doesn’t help that Patrick and the girlfriend have slept together and that neither of them can stop thinking about their (what should have been) one time indiscretion.
Patrick’s dead end job at the local convenience store brings him into contact with Layla, a goth wannabe who is rebelling against her ultra-Christian parents. Layla and her sister, Verna, are used by her father in promotional material for his family ministry. Verna is bullied at school while Layla has turned to rebelling through her clothes and lifestyle against her parents. That includes hooking up with several older guys, including Patrick.
Braffet ably and compellingly weaves together her plot threads and builds each character up as the novel winds its way to its inevitable and devastating conclusion. As I said before, this novel is next to impossible to put down, despite the fact that there are few redeeming qualities to any of the characters Braffet has created.
Simply put, this is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long, long time. Pick it up, read the first two chapter and then just try to put it down. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to.