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Recently I was asked to review author Scott Driscoll’s upcoming novel, Better You Go Home. Here’s my brief review.
Better You Go Home is a story about family secrets.
Most of us yearn to know our roots – uncover family secrets and understand those who went before – and at no time does that knowledge come with a more poignant jab to the heart than when we teeter at the edge of mortality. In BYGH, author Scott Driscoll’s protagonist, Chico Lenoch, embarks on a mission to unearth the truth of his ancestral moorings from this fragile vantage point.
Chico, a diabetic, Seattle attorney, has just received two pieces of disturbing news; a diagnosis of kidney disease, and that he has a sister in a country he has never visited; his father’s homeland, the Czech Republic.
In his quest to save his life Chico journeys to the Czech Republic, and begins a dangerous search for his sister long lost behind the Iron Curtain where the dark truth sleeps beneath a blanket of lies and people still live under the ‘hammer of the Russian Mafia.’ With family secrets so steeped in paranoia, fear and anger that to wake the truth is to risk his own death – but to save his sister is to save himself, he ventures into the dark world his father escaped decades before. With high stakes and taut page turning tension Chico forges his way beyond past betrayals to salvation; his, his fathers, his sisters and even more players than he realizes.
With a cast of characters to rival The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Chico takes us to the Czech Republic, his father’s family farm in Pisecna, a village close to the mountains bordering Poland. The story revolves around a four-decade old secret and an orphanage where his sister grew up – an orphanage he appropriately, poignantly depicts as an ‘arc of lost children.’
With descriptions that read like a travelogue, we get a clear picture of the place and people of post war Prague. We hear the sounds, smell the air pollution, feel the buzz of a newly born social structure where people struggle to crawl, walk, eat and scratch out a living in a fragile economy in a new world order with deep dark roots and brutal dictator-like gatekeepers at every turn.
In Prague, Chico soon learns every shadow contains ghosts –people who did what they had to do to stay alive –their pasts include bribery, torture, superstitions, paranoia, theft and honor – and now, after war, they don’t like questions. One tells Chico, it is ‘better you go home.’ Chico also soon learns bribery, torture, superstitions, paranoia, theft and honor are not tools of the past, but still permeate this lapsed culture.
Chico’s failing health clock ticks, loudly. “Waiting” he says, “Is the privilege of the healthy.”
The view of post war Prague is gray, deathlike, dank and musty after generations of government that cared nothing for the environment, never mind their own people, and who raped the land, the rivers, the skies, leaving the wildlife to fend for themselves and eke out an existence on pollution and dried up food sources. In stark contrast, when the lovely doctor Milada, Chico’s love interest, visits Seattle from Prague, her eyes witness a green world full of thriving wildlife, clean rivers and streams, and friendly people, and though frail and fraught with danger – her hope for a better world is renewed when she returns home to Prague to aid Chico in his perilous pursuit.
With Milada as his guide through a ‘sea of steeples and spires and chimney pots’, Chico delves into the history and people of Pisecna in search of his sister, and his father’s secret. He meets with retaliation, threats and paranoia ‘thick and blinding’ as fog. The mysteries surrounding Chico’s genealogy are entwined with life and death circumstances, politics, imprisonment, torture, protective village rituals and decisions made that cannot be undone without exacting a steep toll. Chico pushes boundaries, as only a naïve American would.
It’s a race to save his life – find a suitable kidney donor –and maybe save his sister. Ultimately who he saves is his father –the original lost child – long tortured by his secret and those ghosts he left behind the Iron Curtain decades before. With dramatic well-drawn characters, a climax scene with the tension of High Noon, and a peek behind the Iron Curtain, Better You Go Home is a page turner. *
Better You Go Home by Scott Driscoll
Coming from Coffeetown Press – Coffeetown Press PO Box 70515 Seattle, WA 98127
Better You Go Home – Copyright © 2013 by Scott Driscoll
ISBN: 978-1-60381-170-5 (Trade Paper) – ISBN: 978-1-60381-171-2 (eBook)
Check out Scott’s Blog where he writes about his journey to Pisecna and the politics,
people and overall landscape of that part of the world.
Better You Go Home comes out in October BUT if you go to his site
you can read a couple sample chapters. …
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(re)Living History, with occasional attempts at humor and the rare pot-luck subject. Sorry, it's BYOB. All I have is Hamm's.
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