Friday, April 1, 2016

Among the Dead and Dreaming

Among the Dead and Dreaming by Samuel Ligon
Leapfrog Press: 4/5/16
eBook review copy; 240 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781935248781

Among the Dead and Dreaming by Samuel Ligon is a highly recommended novel that looks at events through the perspective of multiple characters. The novel opens with a tragic accident involving Cynthia and Kyle. The two are old friends, but currently the significant others of Mark and Nikki. Their deaths bring Mark and Nikki into an uneasy relationship.

Nikki has been running since she left her home at seventeen. She has ran from one relationship to another and across the country. When she meets Cash in Austin, it may have been the best and worst mistake she ever made. The worst mistake because Cash was domineering and controlling. He became dangerous and a stalker when Nikki tried to leave him. She kills him and escapes. Only she knows that the best thing that happened to her, her beloved daughter Alina, is Cash's child, something she will never tell Alina about.

Now Cash's brother, Burke, is out of prison. He has found Nikki's phone number, photos of her and Cash, and he's fantasized about her to extraordinary creepy levels. He is losing control over reality, but it looks like he is going to be stalking Nikki with dangerous intent, seeking revenge.

Mark is full of regret over the loss of Cynthia and suspects that something was going on between her and Kyle. He's mired in reflecting upon his relationship with her and speculating over what might have been. He ponders his past political career. He thinks he sees some of his own distress reflected in Nikki and thinks he should talk to her about his suspicions, which opens them up to an uneasy relationship.

Alina, thirteen, knows that Kyle loved Nikki, but Nikki didn't reciprocate the same level of love and devotion. Nikki always holds some part of her back. Alina, however, adored Kyle and can't believe he is gone. She's angry at her mother's choices and her clinging to Alina.

Ligon has these characters and others who were involved during various parts of their stories chime in with their side of things and what they think. This is not confusing because each chapter opens with the name of the character speaking. It makes for an interesting story since it is told through the perspective of the individuals involved. While one person may assign a specific motive to another person's actions, that isn't always the case. Sometimes the truth lies somewhere in-between.

All of these characters are searching for love: the love of a mother for a child (even if it becomes clinging and overbearing); the love between men and women; the love between friends; the love lost; the love sought. Many of them are scared of love even while they seek it. They don't really know what it is they want. They all seek a place of acceptance and safety, however unlikely it seems.

There is a real tension that builds as Burke becomes increasingly obsessed with Nikki - and unhinged from reality. This is another novel that isn't necessarily an easy novel to read. There are adult situations and violent scenes. The fear in these characters becomes palatable; they fear for their futures, over their past, and what will happen next.  Nikki, Alina, and Mark are so lost and searching for some stability that you can't help but feel for them and hope they survive the coming encounter.

The fact that Ligon manages to give all these characters a different voice and point of view in the narrative is a good indication of his skill and artistry. The story flows smoothly and deftly, even when the scene is grim, somber, or disturbing.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Leapfrog Press for review purposes.

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