STASH by David Matthew Klein

Book Quote:

“Gwen’s a model citizen, you know that. It was just a wrong place at the wrong time kind of thing. I can see this just going away.”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn (JUL 27, 2010)

Debut novelist Klein has written a smart and nervy domestic drama/thriller. The pages fly, and the prose is crisp and economical. He tackles difficult, dicey, and controversial subject matter without handing out platitudes or falling into blunt party line agendas. I am tempted to call it a non-puff beach read. It is lively, energetic, and easily accessible, but it is also thought provoking and ultimately bold.

Loving mother and housewife Gwen Raine bought some pot from ex-boyfriend Jude for recreational use. On the way home, driving down some precarious mountain roads, she was involved in a car accident. She was hit by an elderly driver (suffering from dementia), and both end up in the ER. Although Gwen was not at fault, the police found the bag in her car and the THC in her system, and now the DA is poised to strong-arm or throw the book at her due to escalating drug sales in the community.

Concurrently, husband Brian is having some problems at his high-paying job at Caladon Pharmaceuticals. They have been walking a fine line with marketing an anti-anxiety medication as an off-label weight loss drug. Some speculative and hazardous risks were taken by the company’s executives, which threaten to topple over onto Brian. The Raines have separate stressors and two small children together. The marriage is now loaded with accumulating anxieties and legal problems. How–or if–they pull through keeps the reader on edge.

Told from multiple narrative perspectives in alternating chapters, the story focuses primarily on Gwen and Brian Raine; the enigmatic and laconic Jude; and Jude’s daughter, Dana. Gwen and Brian’s depiction as a suburban married couple devoted to their children do fall into a quasi-stock profile. The “form” of their characters is familiar. However, Klein keeps the story taut and the reader tense by compounding the problems resulting from a ripple effect that connects the characters to each other. He convincingly pushes the envelope with Gwen. She is faced with difficult ethical and moral choices, and her responses aren’t canned or predictable.

Jude is morally ambiguous, and I applaud the author for an honest and organic rendering of this character, never falling into an easy trap of stereotype. Moreover, Klein doesn’t demonize all recreational pot smokers into categorical addicts or amoral/immoral deviants. He aptly illustrates the various lifestyle choices that people make and the consequences of their behaviors.

The author did his research and applied his details fluently. I worked for a company that performed drug trials, and I recognize the spot-on ethical dilemmas and vicissitudes that were portrayed and plagued Brian.

The denouement was tidy on one front, luridly messy on another. Klein doesn’t tarnish it by creating a sea change in his characters or laying on a heavy-handed, disingenuous morality. The final and anticlimactic scene was authentic and arch, and I admire the author for his audacious and honest story. It is sure to create animated discussions, which makes it an excellent selection for broad-minded book club readers.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 23 readers
PUBLISHER: Broadway (July 27, 2010)
REVIEWER: Betsey Van Horn
AUTHOR WEBSITE: David Matthew Klein
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Also read our review of:

Blame by Michele Huneven


July 28, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: , , ,  В· Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Mystery/Suspense, Reading Guide

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