Gloria Mallette is a phenomenal storyteller. With characterizations that have depth and realism, she normally weaves rich tales that delve deep into the human mind. The issues her protagonists contend with are often deeply rooted, relatable, and quite interesting. However, with If There Be Pain, she falls short.
In this novel, Kyle Lawson appears to have it all. He’s smart, has his own business and good looks to boot. He is the epitome of a “ladies’ man” as he juggles three different women, although claiming to be seriously interested in one. He’s such a player that his own best friend is afraid to bring his fiancé around Kyle for fear that Kyle may overstep his boundaries.
Despite his carefree lifestyle, Kyle has always been very close to his Native American shaman grandfather, who becomes very ill. Self-absorbed Kyle rarely visits his granddad at the nursing home. In fact, his mother has to practically beg him to go. So when the grandfather dies, Kyle feels a sense of guilt and later starts having intense nightmares in which grandpa is seemingly trying to convey a message from the grave.
Meanwhile, life as Kyle knows it slowly starts to spiral out of control. His number-one employee quits and business is shaky; one of the women he’s sleeping with wants a commitment and it’s driving her crazy; his younger sister, a lesbian, has asked him to do something he simply cannot fathom, and a tarot card reader has warned that danger lies with one of his women.
Based on all of the aforementioned crazy antics of the story, it would seem that this is an exciting novel with lots going on. However, Mallette spends an enormous amount of time on Kyle’s doggish ways, so much so that it becomes a belabored point. At times, If There Be Pain is almost painful to read due to its slow pace. It picks up a bit toward the end as suspense unfolds but still ends with a typical player and a typical message. There are several different elements to the story, but they simply did not flow together and come across almost contrived. Some readers may find that they enjoy this offering that proves to be something different for Mallette. In this reviewer’s opinion, however, this book is not one of her best works. Nonetheless, Mallette is still one of the best modern-day storytellers in the literary game.