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!
Cohen Davies has a lot going for him:
- He’s funny.
- He’s kind (and I’m pretty sure he would understand the meaning of consent).
- He loves kids.
- 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?