The Descent of Man
Kevin Desinger
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Buy *The Descent of Man* by Kevin Desinger online

The Descent of Man
Kevin Desinger
Unbridled Books
272 pages
May 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Desinger steps into a life of suburban paranoia in this disquieting thriller where the existential musing on the nature of loneliness and grief is associated with one manís descent into metaphysical hell. Ambitious from the start, the novel is chiefly a primeval focus on certain decisions and how they can make us question the nature of civilized behavior.

Both grief and fear share center stage in Jim Sanduskyís life. One night he spies two men attempting to break into his Toyota Camry. In a fit of rage, he breaks into their truck, later destroying it in an industrial area of the City. Jim doesnít think of it as a crime - more a random act of recompense and a way for him reside in the mind of the criminals.

Jim works as a wine steward in a sandwich shop and is at first glance happy with his wife, Marla, a committed schoolteacher. But over the past months, both have been forced to recognize certain painful realities, the grief far too harrowing for either of them to cope with. While Marla is "catacombed in her dark feelings," Jim feels as though he has failed her because he has done nothing and could do nothing to save their unborn son.

Under ďa crouched silence of accusations,Ē Jimís strange and shadowy landscape of truth and lies gradually unfolds. He blames himself for not having been able to do something to prevent this awful turn of events. Jim regrets wrecking the truck, the whole incident violent and pointless, yet the damage is done. Sergeant Rainey is forced to warn Jim there will be repercussions from the two thieves, Wade and Larry Hood.

When you commit a crime, you replay it again and again, discovering mistakes and omissions. In Desingerís capable hands, Jimís actions accelerate in a series of unforeseen events, culminating in a freeway accident where one of the Wade brothers goes on the attack, the sound of the impact remaining fresh in Jimís head. Jim is paralyzed by the feeling that if he were to continue forward, Larry Hood will appear out of nowhere and track him ďlike a big game hunter.Ē

Descending at night into the Cityís underbelly, Jim witnesses all the illegal enterprises and unsavory activity. ďWanting to be within it without being a part of it,Ē Jim tries to determine his own position in this nocturnal food chain. From the hookers who hang around outside Arlene's Fine Dining & Dancing, a local strip joint, to the recriminations from Marla over his nocturnal sneaking, Jim attempts to hide the truth behind his actions through a storm of lies, truths and half-lies.

In Desingerís opaque tale, nothing is what it seems. Amid steadily falling rain, Jimís secret life teems with forces beyond his understanding, let alone his ability to explain. A bracing read, even if at times a little too didactic, the novel snaps with tension, culminating in a random act of violence that exposes what really happens when our primeval forces are so suddenly and savagely unleashed.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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