cover image Giving Up

Giving Up

Mike Steeves. BookThug (Small Press Distribution, U.S. dist.; LitDistCo, Canadian dist.), $20 trade paper (214p) ISBN 978-1-77166-091-4

Steeves’s debut novel chronicles the anxieties of a married couple. Readers are given direct access to the couple’s thoughts about each other, their marriage, and their belief that nothing has worked out the way they expected, in stream-of-consciousness narration that is sometimes uncomfortably honest. James is preoccupied with his lack of success and his lack of motivation to complete his frequently referenced but never defined “life’s work,” while Mary is predominantly concerned about how unconcerned James is with their difficulties conceiving. These worries are amplified when both have to confront an out-of-the-ordinary event one night. The monotony and discomfort of innermost thoughts, through normal and abnormal circumstances, are brought to life in this novel, pulling the reader into the exhausting cycle of anxiety in which the narrators have lived for years. Coupled with a dense writing style that has no line or paragraph breaks, the effect is one of ceaseless chatter that may tax readers’ patience and focus. Those interested in the psychology of the characters and the dynamics of their marriage will find the novel engaging; others may find the lack of resolution disappointing. (May)