Odd Adventures with your Other Father – Norman Prentiss
“He’d been a stone judge, keeping his emotions in check. Now, something broke through.”
This novel has an interesting framework where one part is a series of stories Celia’s father Shawn told her about her other father, Jack, who died when Celia was four. These stories detail adventures during a one-year road trip the two men took after college and form the bulk of the narrative. Interstitched throughout these stories is the second main part, Celia’s camping trip, where she also visits the parents of her deceased father.
Jack can make Shawn see things, real hallucinations. While Shawn is the only one who can see the images Jack conjures, this special link is used constantly throughout the story, often with grisly visuals, adding color and strengthening the bond between the couple.
The road trip is like Americana with fantastical, horrific elements—an Easy Rider written by Neil Gaiman experience with a little Clive Barker grotesquery thrown in. The two men land in trouble constantly, which makes the best stories but also makes one think of that Douglas Adams line in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where he mentions 2,000 years ago a man being nailed to a tree for saying, “how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.”
The stories are individually strong and evoke a bit of nostalgia, both for the characters and the reader (and probably the author), and the emotional content of Celia’s narrative brings everything together nicely. You really get to know Shawn’s mindset through his various adventures, so when the camera pulls back to view the whole scene in Celia’s sections, not just Shawn’s POV from the individual stories, you can feel what the situation is doing to him without having to read it, especially by the end. High marks to the crafting of the tale.
Everything here, from plot and structure to theme and style, is handled with class. It has plenty of bizarre elements but is mainly an imaginative, intimate story focusing on Shawn’s point of view, giving you time to get to know him like a brother.