Friday, August 23, 2013

The Realm of Last Chances - Steve Yarbrough

A few months ago in a rather ambitious redecorating fit, I moved our red sofa to the place where our brown sofa had been, and vice versa. Somewhere in this process I couldn't help but notice there was a whole lot of stuff under and behind where they had both been. You know how that goes... "THERE'S that pen I loved and couldn't find and accused my husband of swiping!" or "I had no idea a banana peel would become petrified."

For a fleeting moment I thought that this project had been a lousy idea, not because it wasn't sort of necessary to swap the sofas out, but because now that I saw the mess that moving them exposed I would have to do something about it.

Let me make this clear: I was not designed to do something about the crap under a sofa, but because I prefer to stay just barely this side of qualifying for an episode of Hoarders I bucked my nature and just did it. I admit I felt better for it, but for pity's sake don't think I'm going to make this a habit.

I was reminded of that reading Steve Yarbrough's latest novel, because the marriage his characters have had has always worked just fine.... until they are forced to move to an unfamiliar place, literally and figuratively, and in this new place, compelled to confront all the cobwebs they never noticed before.


Cal and Kristen, the couple into whose marriage we are invited in The Realm of Last Chances, have had to relocate from California to Boston after Kristen loses her job, a change that exposes things about their relationship that long years of living in the familiar had allowed them to overlook.

Yarbrough's greatest gift as a writer is his economy of language. He bores full in to the marrow of his characters, and it is clear that he trusts his readers to get it when big things are happening in the the most insignificant moments, and to connect with them based on the universality of human experience.

And if you have ever looked hard at the person with whom you've shared a life for decades and wondered, WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING AND WHY AM I STILL THINKING IT, you will find something in Cal and Kristen's story that will resonate in a deep and very true way. I suspect this novel will start many a discussion betwixt married folks, and maybe that won't be a bad thing.

For my money, Steve Yarbrough is one of contemporary literature's most overlooked treasures, and I'm on a mission to fix that. 

Surly's bottom line: The Realm of Lost Chances is a mighty fine study of the character of a marriage, told with nuance and tenderness. If Yarbrough's book is hard to find where you are, make some noise and get it there.

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