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Long Night’s End
James Rodgers. New York Literary, $8.99 e-book (334p) ASIN B088WTXHL6
Rodgers’s emotive debut centers on a Sunnyside, Queens, father of two who, at 41, seeks solace from grief and a fruitless advertising job as the leader of a small-time rock band with his high school buddies. Johnny Gunn is perpetually haunted by the death of his son to meningitis three years earlier, calling it a “hell [that] will exist within me forever.” He attributes the crushing loss not only to his personal failures as a man, but, as a lapsed Catholic, to the merciless God whom he believes took away his child without reason. His embittered faithlessness, alcoholic binges, and infidelity drives a wedge in his marriage, and though his wife, Rose, wants another child, the couple’s attempts to rekindle happiness seem like nonstarters. Meanwhile, Johnny’s band is a place for bonding but not healing, as his bandmates contend with their own demons. While the female characters are underdeveloped, Rodgers excels at sensory evocations, whether depicting the bottomlessness of sorrow and anguish, the upended reaction to an unexpected pregnancy, the buzz of alcohol (“kind of glittery and sparkly, like life ought to be”) or the oppressive humidity of a New York summer. This will resonate with readers. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 06/18/2021