“You have to be tough to make it in this world.”
Author Gary Santorella is a writer of substance, an important fresh novelist who deserves wide attention. He does not offer biographical information, but while it appears that DYED SOULS is his only novel, his other book – LEAN CULTURE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY - suggests his career. It seems obvious that with an increased exposure to readers he will gain the stature he deserves!
Gary opens his impressive novel with Charlie’s mother driving him to the halfway house that will become his ‘home’: “My mom isn’t saying anything. Then again, most times she doesn’t have to. She’s evolved a silent language all her own that can paralyze my tongue as well. The sagebrush ad scrub oak race past the corner of my eye and I stare out the windshield, swallowing down the scream that’s rising in my throat…It’s stiflingly hot, but we ride with the windows up. It isn’t because my mom wants everyone to think that we’ve air conditioning this time. She wants me to sweat for what I did…’ In that brief passage the relationship between the broken mother and the needy son is made clear, and we are off on one of the most sensitively written novels exploring the dark avenues of weakly constructed families and the vulnerability of the coming of age rite that has been written!
Attempting to condense the story is a challenge, but to hopefully secure more readers of this fine novel, the following attempt is made: ‘Charlie is 13 years old, very bright (his interests include Darwin, Socrates, and Plato and authors Steinbeck, Maugham, Dostoyevsky), and is entering the coming of age realm of life in a world that seems incompatible: his mother is an addict, he has been placed in the Hawthorne Residential Treatment Village where he is prevented from visits with his beloved grandparents, he falls in love with a lass named Margo who disappoints him, and he flees to seek meaning and happiness, both of which are elusive. Charlie learns surprises about his family, ‘connects’ with his mother in a horrifying way, and lives with his grandparents as the only path to stability.
The magic of Gary’s writing, as well as his sensitivity to philosophy is beautifully scripted in a passage toward book’s end. Words from Charlie’s grandfather: ‘Charlie, men are like icebergs; the deepest and most important parts of them lie buried under their own weight, in cold, dark waters. The measure of a man is just how much of himself he can hold above the surface. In a world where so much is taken from us, it is important that you remember the givers, because they’re the ones who’ve helped us keep our heads above water.’
This is a novel of the highest quality, one that pleads to be read and experienced by young adults who face similar barricades, but also one that will impress readers of fine literature. Simply put, it is brilliant! Highly recommended.
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