“Saving you is the only thing that will bring me peace for all the wrong I have done.” – Jillian Peery
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: At twenty-six, Gordon Stafford figures his days are numbered. At least he hopes they are.
Wearied by guilt and regret stemming from a horrific automobile accident two years earlier in which a man was killed, Gordon wakes up every morning with thoughts of suicide. While the law puts Gordon to work atoning for his sins, personal redemption is far harder to come by.
Then Squirt—a simple homeless man with his own crosses to bear—saves Gordon from a terrible fate. Overnight, Gordon finds not only a new light to follow, and maybe even a purpose to his life, but also the possibility of love waiting at the end of the tunnel.
Gordon never imagined he’d discover a way to forgive himself, and in doing so, open his heart enough to gain acceptance and love—from the very person he hurt the most.
Review: I would like to give you a synopsis of this novel. However, there are those rare times when a novel is so profoundly moving that one must break with the norm and speak directly about why Head-on is such an amazing story.
There are many, some may say a glut, of “wounded hero” novels on the market today. What sets this one apart is that our hero has actually committed such a seemingly innocent crime that nearly every person reading this review has had some part in during his or her own life. When was the last time you took a surreptitious glance at a text while driving, or took your eyes off the road for just that split second to see who left you a voicemail? Who has had “just a beer or three” and still gotten behind the wheel of a car? I dare say I can raise my hand in acknowledgement to one of those scenarios above. Now, how many of us have done the unthinkable and accidentally killed a fellow human being in a head on collision due to texting and drinking and driving? Ahhh, here then is where the rubber meets the road in this novel. Our hero is, in effect, a murderer—accidental, yes, but nonetheless his carelessness has caused a man’s death and left him, the survivor, with such unspeakable grief and guilt that every day he contemplates ending his own life.
The true genius of John Inman is that he takes an incident, a habit of our own, everyday life, and gives it just that small twist to create the most devastating of circumstances. His hero is our every man. Gordon Stafford could be you or I, and the idea that we might very well be in his place within the blink of an eye makes his story all the more gut wrenching. I have said this before about this author but it bears reiterating: John Inman builds characters that live and breathe and, in doing so, resonate beyond the page into our very lives. They take up residence there and leave behind indelible marks on our hearts and minds that subtly change the way we think and the way we view life. I dare you to read this novel and then text while driving ever again. It is the combination of this powerful portrayal of visceral events and uniquely real characters that make this novel, Head-on, simply outstanding.
But the author does not just create one man for us to embrace. No, instead he creates the perfect foil for our near alcoholic, broken shell of a man. He creates a character so innocent, almost ethereal in nature, and presents him to Gordon as a gift; someone to save, who in reality will save Gordon right back. Squirt, as he prefers to be called, is also a mere ghost of the man he used to be. Trapped inside his fractured mind, he cannot remember his past and he avoids digging around to find out what he has sealed away. Something terrible happened to Squirt, and Gordon knows only that he will protect and love Squirt for as long as possible. These two wounded, empty people find each other and by some magical turn of events, rebuild one another with the love they share. Unfortunately, fate is not done playing its cruel games with these two and when long buried past events come to the fore, they threaten to tear apart not only the love Squirt and Gordon have but also the tenuous hold Squirt has on his sanity.
Finally, this author then builds an outstanding cast of secondary characters around our two heroes that both serve to support them and tear them apart. He uses those men and women to shed light into very murky places inside both Gordon and Squirt to profoundly unsettling results. In some cases this second string is there to encourage and help, and in others they are used to remind both men of a terrible past that can, if left unresolved, tear them to pieces.
Head-on was such a powerful story. From an author who has already staked his claim in the world of wit and humor comes this brilliantly written story of loss and redemption. To be clear, I read this novel in one setting—I simply could not put it down. I highly recommend John Inman’s Head-on to you.
You can buy Head-on here: