Every so often, when choosing your reading, you take a bit of a chance. I’ve been talking with author Alison Brodie since October, when I’d originally planned to run a guest post, and she’s been immensely patient and very supportive through my recent troubles. There have been times though when she’s been a tad worried – looking at the mix of books on my blog, she said nervously “I suspect that romcom is not your favourite genre“. She is right about that – I’m not always a fan of romantic comedy – but her new book had intrigued me so much I really wanted to try it. Brake Failure was published for kindle on 9th January, and is currently available for just 99p – and I’m delighted to report that I loved every moment.
Is it too late to tell him you love him when you are looking down the barrel of his gun?”
An English debutante transforms from Miss-Perfectly-Correct to criminally insane as she breaks the bonds of her rigid upbringing. Sheriff Hank Gephart tries to reel her in – but she’s out of control and she’s not hitting the brakes.
What happened to the genteel lady in twin-set and pearls? And why did she shoot Mr Right?
Brake Failure is set in 1999 in the months leading up to Y2K “meltdown” when the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: “1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world.”
When reviewing a book, it’s always a temptation to retell some of the story – but if I do that with this one I’m actually quite worried that I might put people off. And that would be quite dreadful, because this book was wonderful, and entirely unlike anything I would normally choose to read. I loved the vivid Kansas setting – the raccoons in the chimney, the eccentric characters, the language difficulties – and the challenges Ruby encounters as she tries to “fit in” when all she ever really wanted was to be in Paris.
The characterisation throughout is superb – Ruby herself is riotously magnificent, and some of the situations she finds herself in make you cringe, laugh. but also feel for her. There’s an edge of sadness and mystery about her background that’s really well handled, her efforts to be a good wife make your heart ache, and her many passions and enthusiasms (from cookery and home-making through her encounters with survivalists and Hell’s Angels, clashes with the law and her aspirations to be a millennium poet) only make you love her more. Her husband is an ineffectual wuss, her “love interests” – the native American chief, the sheriff with a softer side – simply wonderfully drawn. Every single character has a remarkable reality and authenticity – even (maybe especially?) the adopted stray dog that plays such a major part in the story (as does his purloined Teddy…).
The story is really quite off-the-wall at times (in a good way), and very, very funny – some of the incidents will stay with me a long time, and always bring a smile to my face (on the front lawn with a chain saw and Mr Frosty just one of many – and I’ll never forget the dinner party to win the pet food contract, complete with non-human guests…). Ruby’s relationship with her social climber sister is a really clever added element – the points scoring, the repartee, the attempts to outdo each other (and the joy when Ruby succeeds), and the history behind it that’s uncovered later in the book.
The construction of the story is really clever – the backtracking, but really well signposted, from the incident that draws the book so cleverly to a close. I liked the Y2K background too, and the images from modern history that pepper the narrative (how many romcoms deal with the Hadron Collider and the death of Princess Diana in a few paragraphs) – something I’ve never seen done before in popular fiction. And the writing itself is quite excellent – I raced through this book, loved every small touch of accurate observation, really clever humour and a wit that was more sophisticated than I’d ever expected.
There’s something magical about trying something totally different, and the joy of discovering how enjoyable it can be. And the ending? Ok, maybe it requires a small suspension of disbelief, but I think it really works, and it certainly left me smiling.
Are you intrigued? I do hope you are. This book was really something rather special, and I’m so glad I gave it a try.
My thanks to Alison Brodie for providing my reading copy – and for updating as she revised and improved her final version. Unsurprisingly, Brake Failure is gathering some excellent reviews:
“I can image Brake Failure as a very successful television series.” – Linda’s Book Bag
“This is a book that will TRULY have you laughing out loud, as well as drawing you in so deep you don’t want to put it down.” -Teresa Kander, memes and fiction.
“Masterpiece of humor” -Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.
There’s even a 5/5 from San Francisco Book Review… go on, you’ll love it!
Meet the author
Alison Brodie is a Scot with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side: she has lived all over the world, including Kansas City, Athens and Basque country. Her first novel, Face to Face, was published by Hodder & Stoughton and became Good Housekeeping’s Pick of the Paperbacks: it was translated into German and Dutch, plus serialised in Sweden. Her latest novel, Brake Failure, is now published as an ebook with Amazon Kindle. Alison wrote this story from real life: she lived in Kansas during this time and was stunned by the global panic, unnerved that the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon. Zenka is scheduled to be released on 1 September, 2017.