Cover photo of Steve Gilbert's debut novel.
A Lovely Indecent Departure. Steven Lee Gilbert. Create Space. Trade paper: $12.45; e-book, $2.99. ISBN: 978-0-9853365-0-9. 2012.
Novels by their very nature have a moral point of view. The reader is pulled in to identify with the hero or heroine in which the author believes and further believes that the protagonist is doing the right thing. In this way, in his debut novel, A Lovely Indecent Departure, Steven Gilbert creates a convincing reversal: the criminal is the heroine.
Pushed beyond endurance by how her divorced husband, Evan Meade, treats her four-year-old son, Anna decides to flee with Oliver to her native Italy. The narrative, though told in a clipped, bare style, pulls our feelings right to Anna, and subtly stirs the image of a Madonna and Child fleeing, not from a cruel Herod, but from a cruel husband/father, and leaning on the protection and help of her Italian Uncle Alfredo.
All the forces of law and order are seemingly on the side of the father: the local sheriff, the FBI, and later a hired investigator with Army Special Forces background. Yet we know Anna was right to leave. As in Henry James’s novels, the evil in Evan Meade is subtle in the beginning. He won’t let four-year-old Oliver give his mother the birthday card he made in pre-school. He tells Oliver he’ll mail it, but Evan shreds it immediately.
It becomes clear that, for Evan, long before Anna flees, Oliver is his weapon in a game of power and control. Anna knows that, in order to provide a safe, loving environment for Oliver, she must take him from his father, and yet even in Italy she has nightmares that the police will find her, take her son, and throw her in jail for kidnapping. She also knows that it won’t be enough for Evan to get his son back. He will have to revenge himself on her.
As a reader, I was caught up in Anna’s desperate plight. Her difficulties continue as they always do with children thrust into new situations. Oliver doesn’t want to go to school, learn Italian, or have a new last name. He runs away from school. He gets sick at school. Nothing is easy for Anna.
The reader watches as Evan becomes increasingly desperate and Anna becomes more and more vulnerable. Can she succeed when so much power and authority are arraigned against her and Oliver as the net closes in? Has she the courage and confidence to continue her defiance?
This may not technically be a crime novel, but it has the same suspense as to outcome in this role-reversed plot of the good criminal trying to outwit the evil forces of law and order.
By going into the point of view of each of the major players and opening up their reasoning and how they justify their behavior, we have a ringside seat to a drama whose tensions are racheted higher and higher as we near the denouement.
An impressive debut. I look forward to Steven Lee Gilbert’s next novel.
Steven Lee Gilbert was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana but considers his childhood home the green, rolling foothills of East Tennessee and the southern Appalachia mountains, settlement to all sorts of interesting people, composites of which can be found throughout his writing. Most of his adulthood he’s spent in the Sandhills and Piedmont of central North Carolina, where he lives now with his wife and family.
Steven received his B.A. in English from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, after which he was commissioned and served four years as an officer and paratrooper in the U.S. Army. While in school he had the pleasure of learning from Wilma Dykeman and in 2007 had the opportunity to work with Barry Hannah, both of whom greatly influenced his writing. The next year, Steven was awarded a Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant for Literature. He has also received recognition for his work as a writer from the Tennessee Writers Alliance.
His work has been published in the Raleigh News & Observer, The Independent Weekly, Diabetes Health, and at Lifescripts.com. He is also the author of the blog, Without Envy. A Lovely, Indecent Departure is his first novel.
You can read more about him at www.stevenleegilbert.com.
A Lovely Indecent Departure is available from Amazon and CreateSpace.com