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Steven Lee Gilbert was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana but considers his childhood home the green, rolling foothills of East Tennessee and the southern Appalachia mountains, settlement to all sorts of interesting people, composites of which can be found throughout his writing. Most of his adulthood he’s spent in the Sandhills and Piedmont of central North Carolina, where he lives now with his wife and family.
Steven received his B.A. in English from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, after which he was commissioned and served four years as an officer and paratrooper in the U.S. Army. While in school he had the pleasure of learning from Wilma Dykeman and in 2007 had the opportunity to work with Barry Hannah, both of which greatly influenced his writing. The next year, Steven was awarded a Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant for Literature. He has also received recognition for his work as a writer from the Tennessee Writers Alliance.
His work has been published in the Raleigh News & Observer, The Independent Weekly, Diabetes Health, and at Lifescripts.com. He is also the author of the blog, Without Envy. A Lovely, Indecent Departure is his first novel.
You can read more about him at www.stevenleegilbert.com.
on July 22, 2012 :
What gripping emotion this book held and that everything on the surface isn't quite what it appears. This author utilized words and his storyline masterfully to keep me, as a reader, engaged.
I loved that the book wasn't written in such a way that the abductor (Anna Meade) wasn't an "awful" person and that Evan Meade or his new wife weren't quite the stellar individuals that one would see in most books, which comes off as black/white.
Now, on a side note, I must say that I took the storyline a bit different and felt that the antagonist/protagonist roles a bit differently than a number of other reviewers. In the beginning, I truly felt that it was Evan as the protagonist and Anna as the antagonist (she did kidnap her son after all). What was truly rockin' about this book, is that the author was able to turn that around (in my head) and elicit sympathy for Anna, who then became the protagonist with Evan as the antagonist. What was masterful is that, in my humble opinion, he was able to do this with the slightest of moves and underneath the surface. Although in the book's description, it describes Evan as mean-spirited, as one reads the book, it came across to me as "eh, it is just your typical he said, she said divorce situation". However, as one continues to read it suddenly becomes apparent that that is probably not the case.
The quality in this book is a perfect example of Indie authors being able to hold their own in regards to larger publishing house authors and that those readers who dismiss Indie authors are truly missing out. The thing to boot, is that this is a debut author. Imagine what is to come from this author!!
So, why not a full five stars. I felt that there was SOME redundancy or "information" thrown into the book, particularly related to the private investigator and sheriff. I thought scenes could have been either tighter writer or omitted all together.
(reviewed 30 days after purchase)
on June 28, 2012 :
Review: A Lovely, Indecent Departure, has a well-crafted plot line and is written in a bold prose that leaves little room for frill. The sentences were often active and called for my attention. It was the different style of writing that drew me into this story. Listen to the first three lines.
“Look there comes the girl. She is treading alone up the sidewalk. Looking like anyone else of the noontime crowd blissfully strolling the strip mall. But she is not one of them, and never has been.”
Nothing strikes me as passive in those three lines, but it’s more than that it’s the sense of mystery right out of the ordinary. Right away, I know this story could be extraordinary and the reader in me pushes past those three lines because I want to know who this woman is and why she will never be one of them. The woman turns out to be Anna, and she takes her son away from his father, a man who turns out to be mean-spirited. It turns out she has plenty of reasons for doing this, but the way the story unfolds in the perspectives of Evan, the father, the sheriff, Monroe and Anna it becomes fragmented through the different characters. And there is the lacking detail in the prose which I can only describe as writer, Ernest Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory. The theory basically means that writing should be evident from the surface story because the real meaning is below.
So, I think if Gilbert was operating along the lines of this principle it might make sense because by the time I got to the end of this story there lacked a certain understanding of Anna, that I desperately wanted to get. And the chill factor in the Hemingway theory wasn’t going to get me there. I do know that I was looking for what kind of desperation does it take inside a person to steal one’s child from another parent and Anna was written in such a way that I was never able to dive into her soul. Let me provide an example from another book I just finished reading. Look at the next two passages.
The first is from a novel called Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown. It’s told from three perspectives and it has a great deal of mystery. This particular passage is told from a wife about her former husband. She’s talking to her step-daughter, Meredith.
“There are women who make much worse choices than the ones I made who don’t pay that kind of price. In your short life you’ve lost a mother twice, Meredith, and maybe that’s as bad as what I feel. I’m sure it is. But I can’t help being angry at you for letting your father do this. Lord knows that even in your quiet way, you’ve got more sway with him than a wrecking ball on a house of straw. Didn’t you think to tell him that you just wouldn’t go?”
Now, look at how the prose is stripped in A Lovely, Indecent Departure and how the emotion and depth feels missing.
“Oliver watched them. Are we poor? He asked.
She looked at him. Do you feel poor?
He shrugged. I don’t know. What does it feel like?
Like you have very little to be happy about.
Oliver thought about it. He picked at some dried glue on the lantern. Did you ever feel that way? He asked.
Not now I don’t, she said.
Not so long ago.”
But, Anna doesn’t explain to Oliver when she felt poor. The reader is just supposed to get it. In Brown’s book there is a lot of mystery, but eventually it unravels and the characters choose to feel a certain way with the circumstances given to them. It’s very clear how the speaker feels in the first passage, but Anna is not forthcoming in her dialogue to Oliver. I found this frustrating and when I went back and read the summary I realized Gilbert is looking for answers to a large extent from the reader - what would you do? Okay, let me digress for a minute much of my opinion is I like fully fleshed out characters and Gilbert’s writing style didn’t really allow for it. With the exception of Monroe, the characters were borderline flat and so, it was a trade off I suppose.
Monroe, the sheriff, had a painterly feel to him, but he was no Picasso. I would place him with the Impressionists and then stand five feet back from his portraiture. I found myself indifferent to him, and because he became a key element in the ending of the story, I found myself indifferent towards the ending. Overall, I would recommend this book simply because my opinion is subjective, and this is a book that is written in simple prose and done well.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on March 24, 2012 :
4.5 Stars out of 5: A family drama written in the style of a crime thriller which satisfies emotionally and examines complex themes with broad perspective. A fast-paced but thorough look into the nature of divorce and its effects on parents and children, with some great descriptions of Italy, which all combine in a well-balanced novel and deserving winner of an Emerging Artist Grant for literature.
Read the full review at www.theunboundunderground.com
(reviewed the day of purchase)