Thursday, December 26, 2013
Review of Home Invasion by Patti Abbott (Snubnose Press, 2013)
Patti Abbott has a well deserved reputation for writing thoughtful short stories about ordinary people who find themselves living on the edge or caught up in criminal activities. Home Invasion is her first novel and parses out her skill as a short story writer into a longer narrative that follows the trials and tribulations of different generations of a dysfunctional family of grifters over nearly half a century. Each chapter is set in a different year at a key inflection point in a family history that involves a whole tapestry of selfishness, misfortune, poor decisions and various crimes -- fraud, rape, cons, neglect, robbery, kidnap, murder -- and prison sentences. These episodes are told through evocative prose and a narrative that perfectly captures the unfolding scenes, the tenuous web of social relations, complex swirl of emotions, and the foreboding that things will never quite work out as desired. Although cast as a crime novel and published by a press specialising in noir and hardboiled stories, Home Invasion is more of a social commentary about a family struggling on the edge of the underclass, unable or unwilling to find upward mobility into respectability; a dark, unsettling, sympathetic and thoughtful tale that never quite extinguishes hope. Whilst not the cheeriest of reads, I thought it was wonderful.