Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley

I don’t know of a better indication that a book is well written, and succeeds at connecting with its readers than when the reader falls in love with one of its characters. Chad Pelley has given me my latest literary crush. It’s been a while; I was due for one. Thanks, Chad!

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Cohen Davies has a lot going for him:

  1. He’s funny.
  2. He’s kind (and I’m pretty sure he would understand the meaning of consent).
  3. He loves kids.
  4. He’s a biologist (you can’t get much sexier than that, except for maybe a biologist turned writer).

Cohen has a good life; he’s close to his family, he’s working on his PhD., and he’s met a great girl. He’s not really sure what started it all – he could go as far back as that weekend at the cottage, right after meeting Allie for the first time. Or, it could have been when Allie’s father, Matt, asked of him that huge favour. Whatever or whenever it was, Cohen now finds himself in prison serving out a 6 month sentence.

How does a guy like him end up in prison?

If you could just take one thing back…

The book starts with Cohen narrating the story from prison; telling us what it’s like there, and re-visiting the past 10 years of his life. Life in prison is monotonous. He worries about mortgage payments, his job, being beat up by Trucker. But, the thing that eats him the most while he’s in there is re-hashing what happened to land him here, and not knowing what’s going on outside the prison walls.

At first, the worst wasn’t where he was, but how he got there. Allie’s betrayal, or Keith’s devious bullsh*t had festered in him. A maggot, agitated, disgusting, and clawing its way to the surface, so he could think about it again: every little thing that had landed him in jail.

By a quarter of the way through the book, I was sucked right in. It wasn’t only that I wanted to know how Cohen had found himself in prison – I also wanted to know what would happen once he got out. What part did Allie play in all this? And, what about the boy?

… love was the dent you’d put in someone’s life if you left them behind.

This booked really pulled at my heartstrings. Cohen has a close relationship with a lot of characters in this book, but, like real life, things don’t always go smoothly. This makes the conflict between the characters all the more painful. Sometimes physically painful – I could feel it in my gut.

Keith always spoke about Allie as if Cohen and Keith knew her to be a different woman. And through their eyes, she was: how Keith saw her and how Cohen saw her was a reflection of themselves. It was a reflection of what they wanted from life and what they needed from her to get it. He ran his towel through his hair, wondering what she might have needed from him, from Keith, and the kinds of things she might not have gotten from either of them.

Cohen is a gentle, sensitive guy. In Allie’s case, he doesn’t ever blame her for what happens; he feels betrayed at the same time as he worries about what she is going through. On the other hand, he is not afraid to fight for what he cares about, which eventually gets him into trouble.

This book is insightful, real, honest, funny, heart-breaking, and I loved it. But, I really can’t say it better than Lisa Moore:

“Cohen Davies is as psychologically rich and prismatic a character as any reader could hope for – here is complicated love, human failing, tenacity and true feeling. Chad Pelley takes on addling jealousy, heartache, loss, and the need to be forgiven. Stylistically fresh, taut with emotional torques and charges, Pelley’s Every Little Thing is cant-put-it-down compelling.”  – Booker Prize Finalist, Lisa Moore

In How Michael Winter ruined my life by making it better, Pelley talks about the parts of himself that he put into Cohen; his heart condition and his life as a biologist. But, mostly he talks about how happy he is that he is now a writer. As he says in the article, someone else can be “wrangling loons on a pond… But these books I’m writing, they’re all mine.”

In Why I’m so terribly depressing and hard on love, Pelley says,” I don’t think my books are much sadder than others, I think I just shape the language to be a little harder on the heartstrings. (So I can tear them from your chest and tie them to the story.)” And, take my word for it, he does this so well.

I want my readers feeling immersed in a vicarious reading experience, so that every time they lay the book down, they feel like they’ve just lost a loved one, or fell in love, or been horribly betrayed. Otherwise, I’ve failed. Otherwise, it’s just another book, or one they can’t connect to.

You can read some more great stuff about Every Little Thing on Chad pelley’s website. His series of articles (two of which I have already quoted from) at the National Post are a lot of fun to read.

Chad Pelley’s blog, Salty Ink (no longer active), was one of the first book blogs I started following. I loved that he was such a champion of CanLit. I also liked reading his column and book recommendations in Atlantic Books Today. So, I thought, the least I could do was read one of his own books. I am happy that I finally did – it was even better than I was expecting, and I can’t wait to read his first novel, Away From Everywhere

Chad Pelley is now the publisher and editor of The Overcast, an award-winning monthly magazine in Newfoundland.

Read this book! And, tell me, who is your latest literary crush?

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22 thoughts on “Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley

    • Naomi says:

      You know, I really did find his choice of profession refreshing. Maybe it’s only because I took biology myself, but I think it’s more that I don’t usually get to read about characters who are biologists or similar. There should be more of them! I do find there are a lot of characters in books who are writers…

  1. Cecilia says:

    This sounds great! I like the family man + prison story + the psychological. Putting this on my list as well. Alas, my last literary crush was on the mysterious guy my protagonist was having an affair with in Apple Tree Yard. Felt guilty because he was the ultimate ‘bad boy’ but then I guess that is what fantasies/crushes are for! 😉

    • Naomi says:

      Haha! You can’t help yourself when the writer is just that good, right?
      This really was a fun book to read. The kind that you’re sad for it to be over.

  2. writereads says:

    Yay for a Canadian author I have never heard of! Looks like we’re going to have to get this guy’s books on the podcast. This one sounds amazing and I haven’t had a good crush on a character for far too long. 🙂 -Tania

    • Naomi says:

      Yay for bringing a Canadian author to your attention that you hadn’t heard of before! That makes me feel like I’m doing my ‘job’. 🙂
      This really was a fun book to read, and, yes, it had been far too long for me, too, since having a crush on a fictional character. Although, when I found out that the author used to be a biologist (well, he still is, but you know…), I began to wonder what other characteristics of his own he might have given to his character, then I began to worry that maybe I had a crush on the author as well as the character. That’s slightly more dangerous, isn’t it? (Ha!) I’ll have to read his next book to find out…

      • Naomi says:

        Oh, that’s a hard question. But, I would probably have to say Gilbert, since he is also my longest. 🙂 What about you?

      • writereads says:

        Aww, Gilbert is a great choice! So cute. I feel gross saying this in comparison to yours, but because I seem to like mean, super smart guys in literature, the Vicomte de Valmont from Les Liaisons Dangereuses has always been one of mine. Isn’t that terrible? I judge myself as a person. -Tania

      • Naomi says:

        I can’t say how terrible it is, because I haven’t read it. But, half the fun of literary crushes is the fact that they aren’t real, so it’s perfectly safe and harmless. I felt embarrassed about Gilbert, because, to me, he seems such an obvious choice, maybe even eye-rolling. But, he’s the one I thought of off the top of my head, and also the longest. If I looked back through my list of books, I could probably come up with some that are more interesting. Now I want to. 🙂

  3. My Book Strings says:

    Sounds like an interesting book! Heart-breaking and funny at the same time… I like that combination. My literary crush is not very original. It is Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. (Based strictly on the book; I refuse to let any film adaption mess with him!)

    • Naomi says:

      I don’t feel like mine is very original either, when asked the same question (Gilbert Blythe). I did think of Mr. Darcy, as well as Rochester, but I have known and loved Gilbert longer. 🙂

  4. Lynn says:

    Okay, Naomi, two more books on my TBR list. All your fault! Hmmm…honestly I can’t remember a literary crush from my younger days…but I fully admit to a fluffy nonsensical crush on Ranger from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. He just seems like the perfect man…so protective and quite effective in that protection, always there when you need him, totally honest about his feelings for you and the fact that he would never be the kind of long-term mate most women would want or dream of, yet there..always still there, regardless! I guess I just like the idea of him. Nice review!

  5. buriedinprint says:

    I find it fascinating that his novels become page-turners out of essentially ordinary occurences; I really want to know what happens for the character as much as for the plot unfolding. As for a literary crush, Gilbert would be my longest, too, (my eyes are rolling in synch with yours) but from more recent reading, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, because Park was so dogged and determined with those comic books right from the start. *melts*

    • Naomi says:

      I agree. I was surprised by how much I liked it, and felt like I couldn’t put it down. Have you read them both? I’d like to read his first book now.
      And, you’ve also made me want to read Eleanor and Park. 🙂

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