Effed Up by Russ Woody

EFFED UP CoverEffed Up by Russ Woody is a first-person narrative starring Robert and his dysfunctional family. The reader enters Robert’s life as he is getting up-close-and-personal with a woman named Becky, who is apparently turned on by trauma scenes. While Robert is trying to block out the juxtaposition of pleasure and disgust and enjoy the moment, he receives a phone call that his mother is in the hospital. From Robert’s reaction and subsequent actions, it is clear that he despises his mother and is not close with his siblings or his father.

Through present moments and past recollections, Robert paints a clear picture of his effed up family. His mother is a manipulative, psychopath, his brother is a loser stoner, and his sister is a raging alcoholic. The only sane one, he thinks, is his father, who he doesn’t even know well because his mother never allowed the spotlight to be shown on anyone but herself. In the wake of tragedy, Robert must piece together the kind of man his father was, thus learning more about himself.

Effed Up is so humorous, it will make the reader laugh out loud. The characters are so absurd, so flawed, and yet so real, that the story is both completely fantastical and chillingly realistic.  As much as the reader will laugh, she will also cry—tears of outrage, sorrow, frustration (at how dense Robert’s family is about their ridiculousness), and finally, joy. There are aspects of the characters and moments in the family dynamic that are guaranteed to ring true to everyone at one point or another.

While situations may be drastically different, the emotions Woody invokes about love, family, and friends will resonate with readers from all walks of life. In the end, the story is about one man’s journey to finding himself and learning what true family means.

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The Scent of Rain and the Road Home by Dan Solomon

Scent bookThe Scent of Rain and the Road Home by Dan Solomon charts his life experiences and his spiritual journey up to the present time. He documents some of the traumatizing events in his early life to show that God’s love can help a person overcome and have a fulfilling existence.

Early on, Solomon’s life was full of pain, abuse, and heartache. One of his first memories is being at the funeral of his twin brother and sister. His father drank and gambled, making home life unhappy. His mother finally left when his father broke her arm. On top of all that, the teenage boys in the neighborhood were molesting Dan and all the latchet key kids because their parents had to work to support them and could not be there when they got home from school. Even though things started to get better once they began to attend church, Dan still struggled with anger issues, so much so that, at one point, he stabbed his brother with a knife.

The hardships in Dan’s life continued sporadically during his time in the Reserves and even after marriage, but after he truly gives his life over to God, he is able to deal with them more easily. Solomon tells the reader about his difficult life to illustrate that God’s love can heal all wounds.

Solomon’s memoir is both interesting and inspirational—even to the reader who does not believe in God to the extent that he does. After all of the abuse Dan suffered in his life, he could be bitter and abandon all others. Instead, he uses that hardship to spread love and acceptance. The reader will enjoy learning about how Solomon was able to overcome anger and make his life meaningful by helping others. The only thing lacking is detail and a sense of closure.