Steph Post. Pandamoon Publishing, $15.99 paperback (234p) ISBN: 9780990338963
Bear with me because I’m going to do this thing a little unconventionally and start out with the ending of the book. Don’t panic: no spoilers here. Just from reading the jacket copy or the first few pages of Steph Post’s A Tree Born Crooked, you’ll know that down-on-his-luck, ex-Florida native James Hart is on his way home.
The narrative kicks along dragging landmines that intermittently explode into the next bleak landscape of armpits, stale fries, fried chicken and booze so seamlessly that by the time Post unleashes these last words, “There was no denying it now. He was home,” you’re so soaked in this world that you feel like you’ve suddenly hit on a rain shower. And it feels as refreshing and right as it does to Hart.
Which is to say, everything you need to know about misfits is summed up in the idea that crooked trees stand best together, or that family is king, even if you have to settle for the self-manufactured kind. This is, of course, the story behind the title and clearly a lesson that Post has learned well for herself.
Blogging candidly about her experiences with the “Writing Life” and insights gleaned from “Interviews” with other less-conventional authors, she is forming her own little community of creatives.
But besides these intriguing blog shots, what I love best about Steph’s writing, and this book in particular, is her plastic-furniture-hanging-out bluntness, her no-pancake-makeup-covering-the-bruise, bare-knuckles style prose that makes me want to name a nail polish after her, or at least some sort of trailer siding.
And while I hate to make comparisons to other writers, Post’s Tree-Born vibe is very Carson McCullers meets fearless inventiveness of Virginia Woolf, with maybe a Barry Hannah daiquiri air-brushed in. Yet nothing is too over the top, despite characters named Rabbit, Alligator Mafia hitmen and a cover that feels like a belly tattoo.
As a debut novel it is polished, tight and undeniably literary (nothing wrong with character-driven) in a world of crime thrillers over-saturated with the formulaic. But this is perhaps not a surprise to some, coming as the book does out of the quirky independent Pandamoon Publishing which claims Chicago-tough memoirist Emily Belden among its authors. Pandamoon is also slowly working at building up its “Southern Lit Grit” catalog, a crown in which Post is the cock-eyed jewel. (September 2014)
Purchase A Tree Born Crooked HERE.
Reviewer bio: C.A. LaRue is a writer/artist working out of New Orleans. She studied creative writing at Hollins University and holds a B.S. from the University of New Orleans. She is a registered member of the Tlingit Nation of Alaska with recent work in Deep South Magazine, The Review Review and Ardor Literary Magazine. Find her at http://bonesparkblog.wordpress.com or on twitter @bonesparkblog.