The Timber Stone by Dave Abare


Josh Traxon is at a life-changing crossroads.

Back in L.A., where he was a rock star and reality show celebrity, he thoroughly embraced the widely accepted norm, drinking until he was face down in the bathroom, calling the porcelain gods.

But when Josh returns to rural New England where he grew up, the demons that return with him are far from the status quo, and they exact a toll that he is unwilling to pay – until the one woman who might be his only hope comes into his life.

Thus begins what is likely to be the most fascinating novel you’ll read this year as Josh, a wiseacre, semi-famous drunk, tries to put down roots across the  street from Laurel, an anything-but-stereotypical single mom whose history of problematic relationships has left her achingly vulnerable.

In The Timber Stone, author Dave Abare has created a powerful book whose central characters play out a tragicomic tale full of hilarious one-liners and unexpected turns. These are people who command your attention and for whom you can care deeply.

Josh’s often irreverent humor masks a thoughtful chessmaster’s intellect, while Laurel, whose beautiful soul is full of unmatched kindness, serves to center Josh in a way few others ever have.

The storyline follows this unlikely couple through a tentative courtship in which Laurel’s son, Ethan, a wonderfully innocent eight-year old, and an exuberant pug named Pickle, play strong supporting roles.

Several other major players also appear prominently in this carefully crafted work of fiction: Laurel’s abusive would-be suitor, Barry; her uberprotective mom, Helen; and Josh’s former girlfriend, Sasha, who was killed in a car crash on the west coast, triggering his migration east.

From the very beginning, the reader becomes immersed in Josh’s unique gift for hyperbole and sarcasm, as when he’s describing his inimitable pug’s olfactory excellence:

“The dog could spot a pinto bean atop Mount Everest, and I could barely read my driver’s license from a foot away.”

And, in another instance:

“I’ve been around drunks and addicts my whole adult life. They’re easier to spot than a week-old cold sore on a Vegas hooker in a dental chair.”

But he can also be lyrical:

“The daylight had stretched itself over the landscape of my front yard, bending off the bright white corners of the outside trim and spilling into pockets that had been dark an hour earlier.”

And, when describing his turbulent time with Sasha:

“When you’ve got both feet in and someone’s altered your world so profoundly, there’s no way to turn back and ignore what you feel and know. You simply must strap in and finish the ride.”

There are many other instances of fine writing, both ribald and ironic, throughout this excellent book – quite literally too many to mention. But it’s the big reveal midway through that will leave you breathless.

Five-plus stars to The Timber Stone. It’s a singular novel that traces a unique path of tragedy and redemption, unfolding over a few intense months. And guiding every word, one senses the practiced hand of a writer just finding his voice for storytelling, and it is clear and strong.

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