Shaking Out the Dead: A Novel. K. M. Cholewa. The Story Plant. June 2014. 340 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781661881431.
Paris of Montana is not the cowboy image one would expect from his looks; rather, he’s more like a sage or guru whose presence seems to bring peace to whoever crosses his path. That path lies within a diner where late-night drinker, whores, and other riff-raff settle in for the free soup Paris offers. He’s made it a place “to belong” for those who are nameless and have no connection to anyone or anywhere. If one asked Paris what mission he was trying to accomplish, he couldn’t tell – he just did as he saw fit without any fanfare or hope for acclaim! Love is action it appears but is that enough?
Tatum’s definition of love and connection is without definition. At the beginning of this novel, she’s rushed off to see her dying sister but unfortunately made it too late. Now all she has is memories and a niece, Rachel, who will be returning to Montana with her as her father says he “needs a break from all this.” Rachel’s anger is palpable; it feels like fury! All that emotion makes it hard for Tatum to mourn the loss of her sister, ironic indeed as there was never much outward love between them. Why did they so dislike, even hate, each other? Tatum reflects that there really isn’t a tangible reason; it’s just the way it was an evolved to an even greater ambivalence! But now Tatum is to be a temporary mother to a young teen who wants nothing more than to be left alone! Mourning the loss of love turns out to be the gigantic obstacle to receiving or sharing love!
Genevieve is an older, wise woman who has created her own little independent world, a woman seeking balance and peace in a world where chaos and rejection rule the day, or so it seems! At one point, she realizes that history repeats itself not because we don’t remember but because we tortuously repeat the memories and become locked in their destructive, rather than lovely, tendencies. Can she who is such a source of wisdom and peace, albeit starkly expressed, access the same for her own mental and emotional turmoil. But before one stereotypes this woman, beware as she’s one rebel and feisty woman bound to shock readers quite a few times before this memorable story ends.
This is the story of those would need love so desperately, how they move closer and closer toward its fulfillment and how it all evolves and then comes to a dramatic conclusion for everyone involved. Tatum is the most honest as she recognizes the cost of letting go and opening up to what could be hers at any moment. The others are too locked in the past but will be shocked into the present in a scene full of unintended agony and violence.
Shaking Out the Dead: A Novel is a meditative work of dramatic fiction, often compared to the work of Alice Munro (and rightly so), that will remain in readers’ hearts long after the last tear-stained page is turned! Cholewa is a writer to watch and relish very carefully now and in the future! This reviewer believes Cholewa stands in a unique place as a contemporary fiction author! Highly recommended!