Mysterious Book Report Save YourselfSave Yourself by Kelly Braffet

Crown Publishing/Random House, $25.00, 310 pages ISBN 978-0-385-34734-1

There’s a saying my old Irish Grandmother repeated that goes like so: God made the countryside and man built the cities . . . but the devil made the small town.

I’ve thought about that old saw over the years, and what I think she meant was this: in a small town everyone knows everyone else’s business, so therefore, no one can EVER escape from their past.  And nowhere is it more true than in a small southwestern Pennsylvania town where this week’s MBR No. 123, Save Yourself, by Kelly Braffet, takes place.  It’s where a twenty something named Patrick Cusimano is living with his brother Mike in their family homestead, along with Mike’s girlfriend.  Their mother is dead.  Their father lives in prison, sent down on a fifteen-year stretch for DUI and vehicular homicide . . . a hit and run that killed a little boy.  Both brothers are trying to live with the shame, each in his own way, because, well, because it’s complicated.  See, Patrick, who reported the crime, waited nineteen hours before doing so, while his brother Mike and their father tried to talk him out of it.  Mike is dealing with the ignomy by self-medicating with alcohol and pretending it doesn’t exist.  Patrick, the more sensitive of the two, is working a low-wage graveyard shift at a local gas and convenience stop in an attempt to avoid almost all human contact.  But his life gets more complicated when he finds himself attracted to his brother’s girlfriend.  He fights it, but it’s complicated.  More so because the attraction is, well, sort of mutual, at least sometimes.  Then there’s a seventeen year old Goth girl who’s after Patrick in a very carnal way; her demonic cohort and his acolytes; the vengeful parents of the murdered little boy; plus a crusading religious zealot . . . and suddenly we find that author Braffet has gathered all the elements of a wide-open, full tilt, screamin’ hot, rock n’ roll boogie that’ll leave the reader sweaty and gasping for breath.  Oh yeah, boys and girls . . . you don’t want to miss this ode to a small town’s psychological demolition.  It’s awesome!


John Dwaine McKenna