by Stephen Markley
**Book will be released 21 August 2018 **
High school history can stick with you for the rest of your life. In a small town in Ohio, people who grow up together are defined by those years, no matter how long it’s been or how much they’ve changed along the way.
In the prelude we get to know about the image the town presents during Rick’s memorial parade. A parade that is steeped in patriotism. New Canaan is a staunch bastion of patriots – the right side of politics. Lurking in the shadows, though, is a meth and opiate crisis. The stuff that people like to hide in the shadows. Markley gives us this prelude as insight into what we are about to experience with Bill, Kaylyn, Rick, Stacey, Dan & Tina, and the assorted others involved in their lives.
We start with the story of Bill Ashcraft. He’s an “activist” but also a drug addict/alcoholic. He was asked to transport something back to his hometown that he really didn’t want to go back to, save for one Kaylyn, the girl he’d always loved. Stacey Moore was Bill’s high school girlfriend, with secrets of her own involving Kaylyn. Tina Ross, the good girl, who was once involved with Bill, but later moved on, wasn’t such a good girl after all. Dan Eaton, the good guy through and through, who served in Iraq, has come back for just a one night dinner with his ex. And lastly, Rick Brinklan, big time football dude who lost his life in Iraq and is still thought of as a war hero in his hometown.
This story takes place over just a couple of days in “the Cane”, but it travels through time retelling history from high school. Markley does an amazing job of immersing the reader into each character’s story, each nuanced little bit of what has followed them from high school into adulthood. The timing of the middle east wars and the recession in the US sets a backdrop for New Canaan, a once middle-class bastion, now just a rundown suburb with a Walmart for its hub. The drug epidemic that America is facing takes center stage in this town that was once a thriving factory community. The tale of New Canaan is not unlike what is happening all over America today.
Not an easy read, this book is powerful in its storytelling. Stephen Markley is a master of words and character development. The threads of each person’s story is sewn together in a climax that will leave the reader stunned. As a debut novel, this is a powerfully written story that will stick with you.