LEAVES ON FROZENGROUND by Dave Carty
Guernica World Editions, September 2019
Fiction, Paperback, 226 pages, $20.00
A boy who loves nature and baseball, takes his dog into the wilderness, two parents blame themselves for the tragedy that unfolds, a marriage is tested by grief. In the vein of Ordinary People, Leaves on Frozen Ground by debut author, Dave Carty (Guernica World Editions, September 2019) is a profound, poetic, and unforgettable novel.
Dave Carty artfully captures the cadences in a poetic voice like Ocean Vuong in On Earth, We're Briefly Gorgeous, the lives in Port Landing, Wisconsin, as ordinary people mark time to the winds of change. Warm summer winds waft off Lake Superior and the tight-knit family of Gaston Vaillancourt, a building contractor, and his wife Céline, who helps maintain the family farm, and their eleven-year-old son, Edmund, are very happy.
Next to the house is a large barn, home to horses, Sir Lancelot and Dutch, and recently, border collies, Breeze the girl and Cloud the boy. Following are corrals, garden, chicken coop and greenhouse, and then an apple orchard that extends to the dark forest beyond. A bit over-extended by the building boom before the coming Great Recession of 2007, the family is optimistic about the future, Edmund seeing professional baseball in his. Unlike the philosopher/dog, Enzo, in The Art of Racing in the Rain, Breeze is just an ordinary dog, though the plot, like his young master, delights in following him.
As leaves of whispered yellow color begin to spin their dance of falling, one apple tree near and protected from the winds by the house remains blazing in bright orange and red. Like a happy child, a loving marriage a fruitful economic life, the coming winter winds presage a chilling end. Gaston has taught his son the art and tools for survival in the wilds, so his constant ventures and explorations into the dark forest cause no worries at home. Céline is an observer and commentator about the sad events that unfold over which she has no control – a modern day chorus. She cannot influence Gaston and has limited effect on Edmund.
Modern tragedy in the eyes of playwright Arthur Miller depicts the lives of ordinary people falling to misfortune. Carty’s debut is an exceptional lyrical ballad, an elegy on grief beyond consolation. It evokes sadness in the vein of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath or Judith Guest’s Ordinary People. Yet readers are so captivated by the author’s perfect words and beautifully poetic meters of life that they must follow young Edmund and Breeze into the dark forest beyond to bring back a Christmas tree for the family. The bone-chilling winds of Lake Superior allow only one to return alive.
Time passes, bonds break, a marriage fails, grief lessens—life continues. Marcus Aurelius said, “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is it’s current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”
In the classic sense, this extraordinary book will have a far-reaching audience.
Beautifully written from the first paragraph. This modern tragedy story about a small family from Wisconsin and their pets. The character felt so real, they could be any one of us. When life throws you lemons you can’t always make lemonade but time passes and eventually you continue even if you think you won’t. This debut book is worthy of your time. Book lovers and dog lovers will love it.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary product for my honest review. No monetary compensation was offered.