Note: I don't do a lot of book reviews any more, but I recently read a novel by first-time author Stephen O'Reilly, a New Englander with a twisted view of the world as reflected in the way he writes. This book will set your head spinning and really make you think.
If you like your fiction neatly pigeonholed into a genre, you probably won’t like Stephen O’Reilly’s Falls the Shadow. If, on the other hand, you appreciate great writing and a well-told story that keeps you panting to know more, this is the book you should definitely read. A genre-defying tour de force, that I can guarantee you will not put down once you start reading.A surreal opening puts us in the mind of a character – I say ‘a character’ because we don’t learn until well into the second chapter who it is –he is lost in the dark. We learn by chapter 2 that this is one Artemis Chambers, a “college graduate and budding politician” in Boston in 1819, and by this time, we’re trapped inside his tortured mind as he struggles with himself.In most novels, keeping the character unidentified that long would be a fault, but in Shadow it somehow seems appropriate. It might be confusing, but as we read, like Artemis, confusion seems to be our natural and accepted state.Characters drop in and out of O’Reilly’s story in an ‘oh, by the way manner;’ but leaving an indelible mark on the story. Take Paul Turner, for instance. A friend of Artemis, he is sent on a strange errand by an ominous stranger – get Artemis out of politics, or get rid of him. Improbable you say? O’Reilly makes us believe it is not only possible but inevitable. What happens next is in keeping with the way the book opens, and defines the rest of it.From a moment of crisis in Artemis Chambers’ life, we find ourselves suddenly whipsawed from character to character, across space and time; a Union general in love with a lovely southern captive; a Jewish shoe repairman faced with a group of anti-Semitic thugs; and on, and on.I lost track of the characters, of the situations; but it didn’t seem to matter. Trapped inside the narrative, I darted from dark corner to dark corner looking for answers.And, then the book ends, but it has no real ending – For one long moment in a brief shirk of time between life and death falls the shadow. We’re left where we began – in the dark, the darkness of the mind, at the place where falls the shadow.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial