Everyone always wants to know why relationships fail. It’s a spiteful curiosity thing, schadenfreude, but also a self-preservation thing. People want to understand how to avoid the fall. The answer is complicated. There isn’t one
reason, one event. It has something to do with smoking cigarettes and drinking all night. It takes into account thousands of hours of labour on a small house, projects finished and unfinished. It is late-night conversations and inside jokes and making love and having a child. The answer is wrapped up, shrouded and
ensconced in prioritization, ambition and work. Caring about these things is not the problem. Not caring about them is death. Emma has settled into her hometown bar for the evening. It was in this very room that she met Lucas a few years back, on a blind date. Nine months ago, in unimaginable circumstances, they divorced. Emma listens to the locals’ banter, key facts about her life story begin to emerge and the past comes bearing down on her like a freight train.
A powerhouse in the business world, why has she ended up here, now a regular in the last bar on the edge of a small town? What is she running away from? And what is she willing to give up in order to recapture the love she has lost?
As Emma teeters on the edge of oblivion, becoming more booze-soaked by the hour, her night begins to spin out of control with shocking results.
A lone woman, Beth, in a bar slowly getting drunk, watching the interactions of those around her as memories slowly resurfaced. It soon became apparent to us the reader, that Beth was recovering from something traumatic, something that cast a shadow over her present life. Bruno, carefully, slowly and at times painfully, unwrapped her, layer by layer, as she watched those around her bicker, talk, drink and most importantly remember. All intrinsically linked, Beth’s ex husband the common thread, the tension between them grew as Beth’s story began the slow gradual build up to an event we hitherto knew nothing about but could only guess or surmise.
Bruno’s narrative was clever, the narrative more a stream of thoughts, of questions, of analysis, dialogue sparse and economical. It was a technique and structure you had to admire her ability to maintain our interest, to slowly release snippets of information.
It was Bruno’s ability to dig deep, to examine Beth’s responses, her reactions and subsequent actions, of a grief never acknowledged but glossed over, pushed to one side as the need to bury deep into work, to forget took over. You got an overriding feeling that her relationship with ex husband Lucas, was left unfinished, regret that words left unspoken had pushed them apart, that maybe love still remained, but did he feel the same way, would there be a way back or would all routes be blocked.
If Beth, looked back to the past, she was also in the present as the regulars in the bar provided the banter, the awkward conversations and grudges that slowly began to rise to the surface. A misguided decision from Beth lit a touch paper that you knew would eventually ignite and explode, but not before Bruno ramped up the tension, left you on tenterhooks until boom we were off, the quiet of the novel left behind a conclusion within reach.
The aftermath was quiet, understated, and peaceful, a recognition of conclusions arrived at, hope for a future.
Ordinary Hazards was just wonderful, a novel I devoured in one day, my need to discover Beth’s story, to know the outcomes, utterly compelling. Its slow meandering and subsequent change of pace compelling and mesmerising and in my opinion, brilliant.
I would like to thank Scribner for a copy of Ordinary Hazards to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour
About the author
Anna Bruno is a writer and business communications instructor at the
University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, where she coaches MBAs on
developing and delivering presentations. Previously, Anna managed public relations and marketing for technology and financial services companies in Silicon Valley. She holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an MBA from Cornell University and a BA from Stanford University.