Written by Summer Brenner — It might not be the best known publisher on the block, but California-based PM Press has delivered some solid hits with the Switchblade crime series. Benjamin Whitmer’s Pike was an absorbing, bleak read about a reformed hustler and drug trafficker who heads to Cincinnati to find out how his estranged daughter died. It is not for the faint hearted. The Jook by Gary Phillips, the story of pro footballer who has one last chance at the big time, was widely praised and has been on my to-read list for a while now.
I haven’t read any of Summer Brenner’s many books, but she comes highly recommended. And after reading her novel Nearly Nowhere, the latest Switchblade release, I can see why.
Kate, the main character, lives in a small, secluded hardscrabble town in northern New Mexico with her free spirited and beautiful teenage daughter, Ruby. It’s not exactly the happiest of relationships, due to Ruby’s wild ways and Kate’s habit of bringing drifters home for a bit of sex and companionship.
Her latest pick up is Troy. As is always the case with those she brings home, Kate has grown tired of him and wants to terminate the relationship and get him out of her life. Troy is a good looking, but very mentally unhinged young man. He has a violent streak that does not take kindly to being dumped.
No sooner does Kate think Troy is out of her life than she comes home to find her former lover nursing a gunshot wound, her daughter has disappeared, and a stash of drugs in the house she didn’t know she had. It’s hard to say much more without giving away the plot, but it’s safe to say that all roads lead to the Idaho’s beautiful and dangerous wilderness area, a haven for loners and the odd Neo-Nazi cult.
Brenner knows how to pen a nice turn of phrase. Like this description of an encounter between Kate and her daughter: “Ruby hated when he mother made their encounters seem like normal happy events. Kate’s cheerfulness in the ruins of their existence was an insult to common sense.”
In a strange way, not a lot happens in this book and that’s the central appeal. There’s no massive body count and very little violence. Nearly Nowhere just a wonderfully understated story of generational secrets and misunderstanding set against the backdrop of some parts of the US I am completely unfamiliar with.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars