It's a perfect day to go outside and sit under a tree and read a book (in the wet states, just pretend you're outside). For those who haven't already had the pleasure, I'd heartily recommend delving into the pages of Paul Backalenick's first novel, "Development." Yes, it's a page turner and "mesmerizing," as many readers commenting on it have already observed. It belongs in the canon of great suburban literature, with its setting in the Connecticut suburbs in 1970.
In "Development," we're not just taken back, we're taken aback, with plot and character developments that are stunning surprises after you've settled in with characters you think you know. But the reader can never be sure where Backalenick's narrative is headed. This is a thrilling and intelligently-crafted ride with an author who also knows how to craft a perfect sentence or two or 200. Pick a protagonist to love, and hold on. Backalenick hails from the same town as Rod Serling, but there the similarity ends. Or does it? Hey, find out.
First off, the book should come with a warning: "Do not read prior to going to sleep". I can think of at least two nights (after which I smartened up) when my heart rate was so elevated from reading it that I actually began hating you. That said, it was a SUPERB and utterly engaging read and the reason I know that to be true is because I was genuinely distraught when I got to the last page. I dont know why I would have expected any differently but I was also SO impressed by your sensitivity to the multi-layered, multi-colored, bizarre emotions and thoughts of the human species. And your ability to weave all that into believable, engaging characters and an equally captivating storyline. At the same time, I absolutely LOVED the pace with which the story progressed. I literally could not wait to get to the next chapter and each one of the 65 chapters was a wonderful balance of resolving pending issues and introducing new ones.
Poignant and pulsing with irony, this multi-dimensional novel dissects and traces the fateful consequences of a family’s direct and indirect involvement in a complicated real estate development.
Drug use, alcoholism, an aborted modeling career, and promiscuity leading to an unwanted pregancy all candidly present a raw but convincing portrayal of the characters. So is the venality in the real estate dealings including an illegal loan from a loan shark causing a police investigation. The decisions made by the four family members, and their respective mind-sets, are rendered with an unerring chisel that shows character development or lack of it.
The writing captures the separate dilemmas of the characters as they try to cope with their individual situations. Sex scenes are graphic but not gratuitous. The dialogue, and use of interior monologue, is credible and advances the story line.
Overall, the novel has a strong plot and believable characters.
Writer's Digest Reviewer
Excellent reading. Gripping, honest and raw. I was hooked from page one. You really put me right in the stressed out mind of Hank. Hope you’re working on the next one!
A well told story, with sharp perceptions about the malaise and anomie of a suburban NY town (Westport, CT) during the 70s. Lots of familiar personalities and a family narrative reflective of a broader society coming apart. Makes poignant reading.
I am reminded of the Neorealist trend in Italian cinema, where societal criticism is portrayed through the everyday lives of people.
Before cell phones, before the internet, before AIDs, before emajis, before a lot of things; there were the '70's. A time of sex, drugs, ordinary people, in ordinary families struggling to get ahead while navigating a tumultuous time. The author captures the '70's with precise detail and evocative emotion while telling a timeless story of intricate family dynamics and personal challenges. This novel invests you in characters who stick with you after the last page. I'm eager for a sequel set 40 years later.
Somehow those of us left behind survived the 60's. The book was intriguing and spun like an intricate web. The setting had me right back in those times.
I read three chapters and I was hooked. I couldn’t put it down and read it in two days.
Well worth reading.