Saturday, July 13, 2024

"Small Town Sins: A Novel" by Ken Jaworowski

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Small Town Sins: What would you do?

Carpe diem.

That's good advice: grab an opportunity immediately when you spot it. Don't wait, make it happen. Even the Romans knew that embracing the moment, wringing everything out of this time, not fretting about the future was the way to live now. Seize the day, as in the new book "Small Town Sins" by Ken Jaworowski, before the opportunity is gone.

Nathan Stoltz was the kind of guy that other people rarely noticed.

An only child, he'd always lived on the edge of life: though people in Locksburg, Pennsylvania knew him, they didn't see him, and that was fine. It gave Nathan a lot of leeway, and he got away with things like stealing his mother's wedding ring and hocking it to pay for an abortion for a girl he slept with exactly once. 

He lived with guilt for that for a long time. When he met and married Paula, he still felt bad, but he never told her about it because they had enough problems. When he found a bag of money in a burning house while he was saving a man's life, he wanted to keep that quiet, too. He just figured the cosmos had finally forgiven him.

Callie, a co-worker of Paula's at the local hospital, knew Paula had something on her mind but then, so did Callie. A teenage girl came to the hospital one evening with advanced cancer and her fundamentalist parents were ignoring what their daughter wanted. The girl told Callie that she hoped to see the ocean before she died.

Callie had many medical issues as a child, and it literally scarred her. She knew what it was like to have dreams unfulfilled. And so, she devised an audacious scheme...

Not long before the teenager was admitted, around the time a badly burned man came to the hospital, Andy lost his daughter to Down's syndrome-related disease, and his wife to an overdose. Everything he ever loved was gone, and he wanted to join them in death – until he found a purpose that almost killed him.

How would your life change if a couple million bucks landed in your lap? That's the stuff of dreams – or nightmares, or stories like "Small Town Sins."

You can just imagine a tiny community like Locksburg; you might even know one, although author Ken Jaworowski doesn't dwell on the town itself. Just know it's the dying kind of place people move, not to but from: it's the kind of a place where dreams go to lie down before they die – which might sound dreadfully depressing, but it's really not. Happily, Jaworowski's characters keep this tale from becoming a drudge; they're genuinely likable people who do surprising, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, sometimes heartbreaking things, and your emotions will get a workout. You won't be able to get enough of them.

If your book club can handle a bit of profanity, this is a novel that will really spark discussion. Find "Small Town Sins" and settle in. Let this fine novel seize your attention.

"Small Town Sins: A Novel" by Ken Jaworowski

c.2023, Henry Holt                                         $27.99                                                 272 pages