by Joe Barrett
Black Rose Writing

"'Fiona, can you please help me out here?’ I ask, with more genuine sincerity than maybe I’ve ever employed in my life."

Sammy has chosen to snub a role in his father’s multimillion-dollar business to paint houses. He can’t stand his father and likes that painting isn’t complicated. However, his life quickly becomes complicated as he wakes up to find the woman he is having a brief, physical relationship with dead in his bed. He becomes the prime suspect in her death. Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old Penny runs away from home. Her mother has passed away from cancer, and Penny has been looking up to her older sister as her hero. After a freak accident, Penny’s older sister dies, and Penny feels it is her fault. Her father has gone completely numb and doesn’t show her any emotion. She lies about her name and age and ends up as a day worker on Sammy’s eclectic crew. At night, she sneaks back into the house they are painting to sleep.

Barrett’s novel is a character-driven dramedy. His characters are well-written and quirky, and his prose is easy to read. The focus is split between the two protagonists. Sammy is a bit like “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. He seems absurd, but there is a method behind his actions, and his callousness is meant to hide his heart. His character will work for many readers but may become tiresome for some. More interesting is Penny. This character carries the book. Her bravery, motivations, and fears really bring her to life, and the reader can’t help but cheer her on. Readers familiar with Richard Russo’s novels will find something familiar, and the book will appeal to those most interested in stories driven by quirky characters.

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