Library Journal Review
DEBUT Markley's ambitious foray into fiction (following a memoir, Publish This Book) reunites four high school classmates on a fateful summer night in their Ohio hometown, in what reads like a darker-themed epilog to Friday Night Lights. Hollowed out by a generation of war, addiction, and crippling recession, the quintessential Midwestern town of New Canaan serves as a magnet for our protagonists, as they struggle to break free of their shared histories. There's an antiwar provocateur whose activism gave way to drugs and alcohol, driving back into town with a package taped to his truck; a doctoral candidate whose forbidden lover has not been heard from in nearly ten years; a reticent war veteran who chose three tours in Iraq over a future with the love of his life; and the quarterback's ex-girlfriend, whose beauty and popularity mask a shame that she finally resolves to address. Markley's prose sparkles with insight and supports an intricate narrative architecture that recalls Nathan Hill's The Nix and Patrick Somerville's This Bright River. VERDICT This bleak but honest survey of 21st-century America is highly recommended for all literary collections. [See Prepub Alert, 2/11/18.]- Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In Markley's standout debut novel (following nonfiction works Publish This Book and Tales of Iceland), four former high school classmates return to their Ohio hometown to make amends. Once a bastion of steel-mill industry, New Canaan has been corroded by economic downturn and opiates; it's pervaded by a sense of disillusionment shared by the four, whose rudderless adult lives pale alongside the blinding lights of their adolescence. Over the course of one night-interlaced with high school flashbacks-the four settle old scores and uncover some of the town's nefarious secrets. There's Bill Ashcraft, who drives into town to deliver a package to a familiar recipient; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate who's sucked into the mystery of her former lover's disappearance; veteran Dan Eaton, who returns from Afghanistan with a prosthetic eyeball and emotional wounds; and Tina Ross, who confronts a violent part of her past. As the night progresses, the long-buried truth behind a horrifying town legend takes shape, offering a window into the raw forces that shape the town and its residents. Markley's novel is alternately disturbing and gorgeous, providing a broad view of the anxieties of a post-9/11 Middle America and the complexities of the humans who navigate them. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Markley's weighty debut novel is set in small-town Ohio, post 9/11, and catalogs the myriad ways that war and recession have failed a generation who have known little else. In New Canaan, a town suffering after factories shutter, readers follow four stories of twentysomethings who knew each other in high school, and the fallout of long-held secrets. Bill is ferreting an unknown package to help make ends meet; Stacey searches for her long-lost love, who disappeared shortly after her mother found the two of them together and unleashed fury; Dan has returned from Afghanistan missing an eye; and Tina executes a destructive revenge plot. Their intertwining tales share characters and themes, but plot connections are revealed slowly. Markley's writing is beautifully descriptive, firmly planting readers in the setting even as the author jumps in time, often from paragraph to paragraph. After the leisurely paced majority of the book, the final 100 pages feel rushed, and the climax comes from seemingly nowhere, but even this does little to take away from an insightful, tragic story.--Kathy Sexton Copyright 2018 Booklist