Today’s book is The Helper, by MN SNow.
Length: 296 pages
Released: November 15, 2016
A tale that combines contemporary, speculative fiction with an ambiguous spirituality. The book explores relationships between lovers, friends, families, and what Powers of Good there may be.
John Sloan is a Marine Corps veteran with a life-long secret that is haunting him. He is a conduit to a healing light that draws him to people on the brink of emotional disintegration, people who are then healed and Helped by this light. His blue-collar world is shattered when he finds that his connection to this anonymous portal has vanished. He is alone, seemingly beyond aid, and in desperate need of a Helping himself.
The book tracks the intersecting lives of John and two other Helpers. His lifelong friend Dusty Hakalla is a mixed-blood Ojibwe, with a secret of his own. His power to Help is remarkable, but was once destructively misused. A career Marine, his scarred childhood and momentary abuse of power have left him jaded and bereft. Deena Morrison, also a Helper, is John’s girlfriend. Adopted as an infant, she flees John to find her birth-mother, while carrying within herself her own secret. Another character shadows their lives as narrator, Nan’b’oozoo, the trickster god of Ojibwe legend—at times sarcastic and petulant, at others insightful and humorous.
The novel travels from the gritty Lake Superior port-cities and Indian Reservations of northern Wisconsin to the Jewish neighborhoods of North Miami Beach, Florida—from Parris Island to the war zones of Kuwait and Afghanistan.
A spiritual, uplifting character study whose narrative style more than makes up for its need for an editor.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: The Helper is in desperate need of a thorough proofreading. It’s full of run-ons, fragments, creative uses of punctuation – and it’s all extremely forgivable, because the narration itself is such a joy. This book reads as though the story’s being told by your oldest and best drinking buddy, brimming with humor and constantly breaking the fourth wall. It has personality in spades. The run-ons were just part and parcel.
(That said, it still needs a good tightening up, but hey – forgivable.)
The story itself is one of those character-driven ones I love so much, following John, Dusty, and Deena through their respective childhoods and their eventual meeting. It could pass for Christian fiction, but I’d be more apt to put it down as just ‘spiritual.’ It was enjoyable and uplifting even to me and my complete lack of religious leaning.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend The Helper if errant commas don’t set your teeth too much on edge.