Brand New Human Being
by Emily Jeanne Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; June 12, 2012
“My name is Logan Pyle. My father is dead, my wife is indifferent, and my son is strange. I’m thirty-six years old. My life is nothing like I thought it would be.”
Logan Pyle is a grad student and stay-at-home father; he has put his studies on indefinite hold, his marriage seems to be failing, and his four-year-old son is psychologically regressing back to baby-hood. He’s also dealing with the relatively recent death of his father, his estrangement from his father’s widow, and a potentially permanent end to his friendship with his long-time best friend. Things just aren’t going well.
So when Logan catches his wife screwing around with another man, he snaps; he packs a bag and leaves home, taking his son with him. But Logan has no idea where to go or what to do now, so he heads to the only place he can think of: the cabin that has been in his family for generations and that now belongs to his father’s widow…to whom he’s recently said some very mean things. Fortunately for Logan, she takes him in and attempts to help him sort out his life.
Brand New Human Being, the debut novel from Emily Jeanne Miller, is the story of a man who is having a difficult time transitioning from the role of son, to that of father, which is due in part to the odd (and often distant) relationship he had with his own father. It also depicts the attachment a child sometimes feels to his/her parents–in this case an only child of a single parent–in which the child (even a grown child) wishes to feel that no one will ever be as close to the parent as s/he is, nor will anyone ever know as much about a parent as s/he does. The death of a parent can have far-reaching (negative) effects on a child, especially when there are unresolved issues in the parent-child relationship at the time of death. Miller does a good job writing about all of these subjects.
Logan is both sympathetic and infuriating; I can sympathize with what he goes through and the confusion it causes him, but at the same time, he makes some really awful choices (understandable under the circumstances, but still awful). His wife, on the other hand, is just infuriating–she is just as much at fault for their failing marriage (and definitely fully at fault for more than one argument), but the author seems to leave Logan with all the blame. At no point does Logan’s wife actually apologize for any of the issues they have, even when she is caught with another man. Logan is confused enough without having to deal with that, too, and the story feels a bit…off…because of it. Taking all of the blame in a rocky relationship when both parties are at fault is not going to fix anything, and I hate that his wife is let off the hook so easily. That is the one part of the story that just doesn’t do it for me. I felt the worst for their son, who is the one caught in the middle of the whole drama–it’s no wonder he has psychological issues.
Overall, Brand New Human Being is a good debut novel and it held my attention throughout. It has funny parts, sad parts, and parts that made me want to kick Logan and his wife in the pants. It’s well written and the way the characters speak feels quite natural. (If you are new to this blog, let me tell you that I can’t stand bad/unnatural-sounding dialogue, so natural-sounding characters is a very big deal to me.) I look forward to reading more from Emily Jeanne Miller in the future.
From the pages of Brand New Human Being:
“This isn’t about money. Bill–and Julie–should understand that. It’s about holding on to what we can, while we can, because so much of life is heartbreak. We want what we can’t have. And sooner or later time steamrolls even the most careful plans, and death bears everything and everyone we love away.”
(To learn more about Emily Jeanne Miller, please visit her website.)
**If you choose to purchase this title using any of the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).
I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is offering a copy of Brand New Human Being to one lucky reader.
- This giveaway is open to US/Canada shipping addresses only. No PO boxes.
- Please fill out the form below before 11:59pm ET on Friday, June 15th.
- A winner will be chosen using Random.org, and will have 48 hours to respond to my email with shipping information.
- If I don’t get a response within 48 hours, an alternative winner will be chosen.
**The giveaway is now closed**