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The Long Redemption
David Olson, author
Synopsis The Long Redemption Nearly everyone has something they regret doing as a teenager. The depth of this regret and the ways one deals with it in their later years is the theme of my novel "The Long Redemption". Three of my four main characters live with their past transgressions. Each of the three takes a different tact when dealing with them. Elmer Hedges, my protagonist, is racked with guilt over his helping to cover up the murder of one of his high school classmates. He holds this secret deep within his psyche, but it manifests itself in his low self-esteem, career failure, and frequent nightmares. The novel starts with Elmer being fired from his job as an engineer in Buffalo NY. He realizes he has to change and impulsively takes a train journey with the only destination being "West." Elmer settles in a Washington State timber town and finds work as a laborer in a sawmill. His wife, Becky, who he met on the train, has the opposite approach to her shortcomings. She is open, perhaps too open, about her bipolar disorder and attempted suicide. Becky like Elmer is looking for a new life yet her impulsivity gets her into trouble. She is resourceful, and feisty, and can usually extract herself from these difficulties. They go their separate ways for a while. Later, Becky flees to Elmer for refuge from a psychotic boyfriend, the cowboy, whom she met at Evel Knievel's canyon jump fiasco in 1974. She and Elmer move in together and eventually marry. Elmer's fishing buddy, Ozzie, is a quirky, itinerant pastor who has failed twice in marriage and once as an actor. He doesn't advertise his failures but doesn't hide them either. Ozzie is serving as an interim pastor at a local church. They spend Sunday afternoons fishing in the nearby rivers. Ozzie espouses some of his unique theological insights, all the while trying to figure out who Elmer is and what he is hiding. Elmer's and Becky's lives are turned upside down when they learn that the cowboy is relentlessly searching for her. Eventually, he finds Becky and kidnaps her. During the abduction, Becky gets control of the cowboy's gun and shoots him. The truck they are riding in, slams into a ditch, giving Becky a severe concussion. She never wakes up and after some time they "pull the plug". Both Becky and Ozzie have tried to get Elmer to open up and unburden himself but it takes Becky's tragic death to move Elmer to confess and make amends for his transgression. Elmer, grief-stricken, is able to move on with his life. He works his way up from a labor position and eventually becomes the Chief Financial Officer of the lumber company. Most of the action takes place in a fictional timber town east of the Cascade Mountains. It begins in Buffalo and part of the tale is set in Elmer's hometown in upstate NY, where Becky and the reader learn more of Elmer's history. My main characters are not heroic or evil. They are just normal people who are trying to make their way through life as best they can. They fail, they transgress, and they go through the difficult process of confession, forgiveness, and atonement. It is a process that most adults can relate to. \t