killing molly:
a novel by Eric C. Novack

Reviewed by Nick Sousanis



We've all been there - a relationship that seems to be going swimmingly until one day, out of the blue, you're hung out to dry. It's over. The other party won't return your calls, and you're left wondering "what happened?" Of course, some time or another, you've been on the other side of that equation, and it all made perfect sense to you, leaving you to wonder, "Why can't the other person see it? Isn't it obvious?"

Eric Novack's first novel "Killing Molly" offers some insight into those mysterious happenings between people. The narrative unfolds through the private, uncensored (often, in fact, downright raw) thoughts - perhaps they are journal entries - of all the characters. What dialogue there is, is limited to brief unattributed snippets which serve as framing devices for each chapter. It's only later in the chapter that the reader is able to reconcile these conversation fragments with the characters and the situations in which they occurred. The difference in how two parties view the same events reads a bit like a more sophisticated version of the comic strips': "What she said" and "What he heard." Novack does a beautiful job of looking into the private thoughts of his cast of twenty-somethings and exploring their sometimes random seeming motivations.

The story centers on Mickey - who when we first meet him is enduring house arrest for drug trafficking. Despite this strike against him, which as we learn through their thoughts colors everyone's first impression of him, Mick's a decent guy, trying to make good. The house arrest actually serves to empower him, allowing him to slow down, start reading, and start taking his own worth seriously. He's full of hope and in search of whether love, and not just sex, exists. Throughout the book, we are introduced to his male friends, many of which live at the "Hippy House" in Ferndale; a lot of girls, some of whom he wants to sleep with and others vice versa; and perhaps the Devil himself, who would like nothing more than to raise all of Mick's expectations about humanity and then crush them.

Mickey's tale and the various characters he encounters along the journey provide Novack a forum to share some interesting, at times thought provoking, and occasionally just downright wack observations about life. In this final category Mick compares Jesus to Jimmy Hoffa, and truthfully his argument is not without some merit. In a conversation with Mick's Probation Officer, Novack shares some insight on the decidedly non-rehabilitory aspect of the judicial system: "… I asked him for help in finding a new job. He suggested I check the want ads. I then asked for any information in regards to furthering my education. … My PO laughed at me. At that point I realized that my PO offers me no support whatsoever. But I was on a roll, so I asked him if he knew of any sort of program that could help me succeed in society. He told me to leave."

One particularly powerful observation in the book concerns Mick's freedom from his electronic tether and the perspective it gives him: "Everything I drove past was new and exciting. The trees seemed to have an unreal quality to them. I felt like an explorer who was in the midst of an adventure to some new world. … I figure everyone should be imprisoned somehow for at least four times in their lives. That way we would have at least on or two month's worth of pure unadulterated joy." Perhaps that word "unadulterated" is the most telling, as Mick's observations on freedom are like that of a newborn seeing the world for the first time and equipped with a rather extensive vocabulary with which to express himself.

The story takes some frustrating turns as the characters' lives spiral out of their control. More often than not, whether out of fear or insecurity, they completely fail to make choices that are in their own best interest, and dump on those around them as well. You want to reach into the book and smack 'em, so they wake up, look around, and start thinking better. All this goes to show Novack's done his job. We are engaged in these characters and their fictional lives.

"Killing Molly" is a thoroughly engrossing read for the well read, but its accessibility and straightforward use of language make it a potential gateway to the vast world of literature for those, much like the characters within the story, whom have likely done little or no serious reading before discovering this book. Despite exposing some of the more ridiculous aspects of the "slacker generation," the book offers this same group a voice in the literature world, and perhaps a reason to take themselves and their concerns seriously. The book offers an additional hook in the form of references to various locales - literary "Easter Eggs" for its Detroit area audience. Novack creates a rich textured narrative exploring the fluidity of perception and the struggles people face dealing with their hopes and insecurities.

"Killing Molly" is available through the Elitist Publications website or various independent metro bookstores, a listing of which is available on their website. I found my copy of "Killing Molly" at the delightfully diverse Read-More Books in Berkley (248)548-1922. You can also order it through Borders bookstores, and soon it should be available on their shelves as well.

For more info on Elitist Publications check out our corresponding feature here.

© 2002