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5.0 out of 5 starsOrdinary Hazards is anything but Ordinary
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2020
This is an extraordinary novel which takes place in one night in a local bar in a small rural town. One gets to know the back story of Emma and the other locals who are in the bar through the author, Anna Bruno's, skillful, descriptive writing. One is kept in suspense throughout the novel about just why she is there without her husband who was a key member of the group of friends at the bar. It was a very unique and beautifully written novel which will keep your attention throughout the evening at the "Final Final" Bar.
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat Read and Escape into Emma's world
Reviewed in the United States on January 17, 2021
I really enjoyed the read of this book. What stood out to me the most was the main character's (Emma) complexities in her character and emotions. Between going through love, anguish, emptiness, and hope, she felt like a very real character whom you can relate to in many ways. The other character's added to the story but she was definitely the main highlight. I also liked the format of storytelling. Taking place through the course of the evening/night at a small local bar, she tells the story of that night, but so many backstories that are always integrated into how you get to such an eventful night. There were great passages throughout that made me stop and actually highlight some areas (I haven't used a highlighter in a book in about 20 years) that just really hit home with me and I feel like they will stick when I think about certain scenarios in my life. Great read and exhilarating throughout the whole story. Amazing debut novel!
3.0 out of 5 starsDifficult Storyline, Making Sense Only at the End
Reviewed in the United States on February 17, 2021
First-time books are challenging to review, and this first novel by Anna Bruno was at first a struggle to understand and enjoy. The story is set in an Upstate New York small-town bar, as Emma recounts her one-night drinking binge among drinking friends she's gotten to know over the last five years.
This story is structured in one-hour segments, each representing a chapter in long-length format, most about thirty pages long, beginning hourly at 5 PM and ending at 1 AM.
The storytelling is a first-person retrospective by Emma, mixing multiple timeframes into a multilayered and convoluted storyline patchwork quilt of her thoughts and experiences---past, present, and future---told unreliability in broken pieces of memories, insights, and judgmental comments.
At first, nothing makes sense as random glimpses of present and past collide into a cathartic and troubling tale of happiness and woe. After reading the first several chapters, these disconnected story patterns became clearer; however, with newer eyes, I began again reading the story from the start, seeing things anew.
Although I didn't care for the dumpy bar context, Emma's distorted observations and reflections told a deeper, more serious tale of a woman trying to make sense of her life, family, loves, and fleeting yet phantom business successes. Amid the ups and downs of her life, this seamy bar becomes the recurring social epicenter of Emma's world for five confusing years.
With each succeeding hour, the conundrum of Emma's life becomes clearer as new facts emerge, as if each bar incident and subsequent drink loosens Emma's storytelling abilities, enabling her honest acceptance of fate and the consequences of her own poor choices and emotional decisions.
Things at the bar grow tense, angers flair, strong personalities collide in an unexpected but meaningful ending. Perhaps the best parts of this self-reflective story are Emma's wise insights and her journey to acceptance and understanding. In a sense, the reader's discomfort and forced listening to Emma's coalescing thoughts and rants creates a shared experience through her painful ordeal. Perhaps that was the author's intentions all along.
Although this work is worthy of review, reflection, and reading group discussions, in the end, I found my reading experience a neccessary evil to endure as a foundational wakeup call to the distractions we create for ourselves that deprive us of those things we truly want most.
The story's characters and dialogues were believable and provoking, adding tension and stress to the reading experience. Audible's narration supplement added personality and drama to the meandering plotline, making it more bearable.
With this first publication success, I hope the author uses her well-developed writing skills to create a more enjoyable and satisfying reading experience. I'll be watching for Anna Bruno's next novel.
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2021
The setting is a dive bar in small town New York. A woman sits there and looks back over what brought her to this place. From the very first sentence, there is a premonition of tragedy. Yes, this is a very sad story, and also rather boring. There are long passages of reminiscence, lots of desultory bar talk, and a constant switch between present and past. A slow read.