It feels like I just finished writing about how excited I was about what Silver Shamrock Publishing is doing in my review of Midnight in the Graveyard. Now here we are again, singing the praises of the fiction this press is casting upon us. As part of a campaign to read a bunch of novellas in November, I wanted to make sure that In the Scrape was on the list. James Newman and Mark Steensland have crafted an unforgettable coming-of-age story that I will not be surprised to see pop up on a few Best of 2019 lists.
In the Scrape follows two brothers, Jake and Matthew, who live with their father since their mother left the family. The relationship between father and sons is strained to put it lightly, and most of the story revolves around the boys concocting a plan to run away and try and find their mother. The strength of the story lies in how Newman and Steensland present the relationship between Jake and Matthew to the reader. We are shown that these boys are in it together, and it becomes quickly apparent that they would do just about anything to protect each other. It’d be fair to say it doesn’t take long for these characters to burrow into your heart.
Newman and Steensland should be lauded for the complexity they weave into the 102 pages the story encapsulates. There is not a wasted word present, and the story is so masterfully brought together in the novella form. As much as I would loved spending more time in this world, I think expanding the story could have only done harm. I genuinely don’t know how two authors working together have the ability to keep a narrative so tight, but I do hope these two will work together again.
With only 100 pages, it’s difficult to say too much without wandering into spoiler territory, and I don’t have it in me to ruin your reading experience. Not on this one. I will say that part two of the story should not have worked. It’s wild, but it’s lead up to in such a gentle way, that it somehow does. I love stories that work their way into my psyche, but I rarely have physical reactions to something I’ve read. During the culmination, I had to contend with questions from my wife and kids – “why are you covering your mouth?” “Why did you just gasp?” “When’s dinner?” “Why are your eyes so big?” It’s just that engaging.
In the Scrape checks all the boxes for a good coming-of-age story. I’m just not sure I’ve enjoyed one on this level since Boy’s Life. There is so much beauty in here. If you clear an afternoon to lose yourself in this story, you will come clear out on the other side with no regrets.
I received an e-book of this title from the publisher for review consideration.