Entanglement: Quantum and Otherwise
by John K. Danenbarger
StormBlock Publishing

"But then the time shovel comes up behind us and cleans out our past where we once belonged, changing and erasing some of our identity."

Though the story takes place in 2044, it spans six decades, commencing with a unique encounter in Provincetown, Massachusetts, between Joe Tink and Beth Sturgess, a sixteen-year-old who has run away from home and makes a living as a prostitute. Progressing through time and the vantage point of multiple characters, Danenbarger's time-bending novel explores the depths of darkness in the human mind, taking readers through the backstories of the pertinent characters in an effort to help audiences understand the experiences and circumstances that create the litany of flawed characters. In the midst of all the darkness, however, is a beacon of hope, highlighted by a seemingly magical and timely note that comes to Joe: "We dream of the better times. If we did not believe this, life would be unbearable."

At its core, all the characters are intertwined. However, this is apparent in some far more than others. Unlike other novels, what makes Danenbarger's work interesting is there isn't a clear-cut protagonist. On the contrary, the author heavily explores Joe Tink's character and rightly so because of the multilayered elements and attributes that Joe exhibits. Joe himself is a supremely confident stripper who happens to be gay and one who cherishes books as the gateway to another world, another life.

In nearly every pivotal moment, he seems to crop up as a catalyst, beginning with his role in providing a teenage Beth an escape from her chaotic and forsaken life. While the experience in the Bermudas is not exactly the safe haven that Beth anticipates, the journey there is a foreign yet pleasant experience for Beth, a glimpse of what her future could look like.

Beth's upbringing in a dysfunctional home underscores the importance of molding youth to be upstanding citizens in adulthood. The childhood of her partner, Kevin Nuss, isn't much easier, having to navigate his way through his formative years with an alcoholic father whose tendencies to neglect his family define him. Danenbarger's work is imbued with a strong psychological component, especially in understanding characters like Kevin, who on the surface promises to protect society as an officer of the law. However, under the cover of darkness he proceeds to find the act of killing, or "solving problems," as he puts it, a complete thrill. His take-the-law-in-my-hands attitude stems from a true problem in his childhood that quickly snowballs into an uncontrollable and impulsive behavior.

While Danenbarger is telling Beth and Kevin's story, he is concurrently delving into the lives of Professor Martin Case and his lover—once again, Joe Tink. Fundamental to the novel is Case's research on entanglement, the idea that "two particles can be directly connected even across vast distances." In layman terms, quantum physics and entanglement dictate that two entirely unconnected individuals could be connected. The entrance of Ellen Lodovico, her research in cetacean communication, particularly dolphins, and a chance encounter on the highway with her and Case adds a surreal layer of Inception-level complexity to the novel that will have readers making comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his knack for magical realism. In particular, a dinner between Joe and Geena, Beth's daughter, reveals Geena's cryptic line with immense ramifications: "There are whole other worlds that our five senses don't register, unless we remember the future," a line commonly spoken by Case.

As the novel progresses, the entanglement becomes more and more apparent, leading to the unraveling of a plot that is less linear and more in the shape of a double helix. With every new plot point, readers uncover just how intimately the ensemble of characters including, but not limited to Geena, Joe, and Case, are interconnected in their entanglements. Although the plot regularly shifts gears to share each characters' story almost equally, its appeal lies in the simplicity with which Danenbarger is able to make all the pieces fit and explore the limitlessness of time in a manner that even the layman can understand.

A 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award General Fiction Category Honorable Mention

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