Review: Brand New Human Being by Emily Jeanne Miller

 

Title: Brand New Human Being

Author: Emily Jeanne Miller

Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt June 2012

Synopsis: Meet Logan Pyle, a lapsed grad student and stay-at-home dad who’s holding it together by a thread. His father, Gus, has died; his wife, Julie, has grown distant; his four-year-old son has gone back to drinking from a bottle. When he finds Julie kissing another man on a pile of coats at a party, the thread snaps. Logan packs a bag, buckles his son into his car seat, and heads north with a 1930s Lousville Slugger in the back of his truck, a maxed-out credit card in his wallet, and revenge in his heart. After some bad decisions and worse luck, he lands at his father’s old A-frame cabin, where his father’s young widow, Bennie, now lives. She has every reason to turn Logan away, but when she doesn’t, she opens the door to unexpected redemption—for both of them.

Status: Read from June 10 to 11, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Exploring themes such as grief, marriage and parenthood, Brand New Human Being is an entertaining and thought provoking novel. The death of lawyer and environmental crusader, Augustus Pyle has left his family reeling. His son Logan, is struggling with his grief and a failing business, his daughter-in-law and protege, Julie, is drinking too much and working too hard, and their four year old son seems to be regressing, demanding a bottle and sucking his thumb. After witnessing his wife’s drunken indiscretion at a children’s party, Logan escapes with Owen to his father’s old cabin, now the home of his father’s young widow, Bennie. There he is forced to confront what he has lost and decide what he wants to hold onto.

Brand New Human Being begins a few months after Gus’s death, related in the first person by Logan. Miller explores Logan’s inner conflicts and the issues that develop within his relationships as a result. I’m not sure I liked Logan but I empathised with his confusion. Though 36 he seems very young and had I not known his age I would have guessed him to be closer to 24. Grieving, but unwilling to admit it, Logan is anxious about his failing business, his son, his marriage and his father’s legacy. The author describes this novel as a story of a son who becomes a father and I think that is an accurate precis. Logan’s relationship with his larger than life father was complicated and Logan is having difficulty reconciling his desire to honour his father with his own needs and wants. In his attempt to live up to his father he adopts a similar parenting style – one that puts him at odds with Julie and doesn’t suit Owen. Learning to be his own man, his own type of father without guidance is Logan’s challenge through out the novel. Uncertain and overwhelmed he makes mistakes with his son that he fears could scar him, but is at a loss as to how to fix things.
Logan and Julie’s marriage is strained, their relationship has been under pressure since its inauspicious beginning – an unplanned pregnancy, a child born with a life threatening heart defect and then Gus’s diagnosis of lung cancer. The author explores the nuance of marriage, the resentments, the silences, the everyday negotiation and how these are affected by their grief. I thought Miller portrayed the complexity of a marriage under pressure well and showed how each partner contributes to the problems that arise.
Julie’s reaction to her grief has led her too work too hard, drink too much and not eat enough but Logan is unable to articulate his concern for her. I didn’t particularly like Julie, she is in as much denial as Logan about her behaviour and as reluctant to take responsibility for it.
Miller’s characters are complex, and realistically flawed. Each is striving to adjust to the loss of Gus and move forward without his direct influence and without losing each other in the process.

Brand New Human Being is a an interesting character study told with a touch of humour and warmth. With keen insight into the challenges of marriage, parenthood and self awareness this novel is a satisfying read.

Available To Purchase

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Amritorupa Kanjilal
    Jun 13, 2012 @ 19:59:01

    The name is very optimistic, but the truth is, there is no such thing as a brand new human being. Our baggages of grief grow heavier each day, and we can’t just leave them by the roadside…
    It seems like a lovely book.
    thank you for the review! Do visit!

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