Title: A Faithful Son
Author: Michael Scott Garvin
Length: 308 Pages
Category: Literary Fiction
At a Glance: A Faithful Son is one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in quite some time, emotionally and spiritually resonant, and a stunning work of fiction.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: This captivating coming of age tale chronicles the life of Zach Nance, a young man struggling to find his place in an ever-shifting world and the zany cast of local characters who help him come to an understanding of himself and the secret he harbors.
The small town of Durango, Colorado provides the rural backdrop for Garvin’s masterful novel. A hunky traveling carnie, an eccentric gaggle of pious church spinsters, a flirty drag queen and Jesus Christ, himself, all make appearances within the pages of this endearing novel.
After tragedy befalls the Nance’s, Zach’s close-knit family unravels. He vows to protect his beloved mother and sister from the fallout of his troubled father’s choices — forcing young Zach to redefine his loyalties, his faith and his own destiny.
A beautiful and heartrending tale in the grand tradition of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Help.
A Faithful Son captures life’s bittersweet journey through lost innocence, sacrifice, and self-discovery, treating readers to a compassionate story of enduring hope.
Review: “My tale begins before I understood this old world is held together with twisted baling wire and rusted penny nails.”
In some small but significant ways, I felt a kinship with Zachariah Nance, the narrator of Michael Scott Garvin’s A Faithful Son. Told in retrospect by a Zach who is older, wiser, and has been shaped by a childhood full of idyllic days and tragic loss—a loss that went on to destroy his father—this novel is at once heartbreaking and breathtaking. Written in what might best be described as narrative poetry, though reading like an autobiography, Garvin’s exquisite prose lays out the introductions beginning in 1959 Durango, Colorado. Throughout this story, we meet the Nance family, along with a tidy portion of the population in this sleepy town full of busybodies, the good and kind and generous Baptist men and women who fear the Almighty and believe with unwavering conviction that their God is present and prominent in all things great and small.
As these townsfolk begin to populate the imagination of the reader, traveling with Zach on his journey from boy to adulthood transforms us from mere reader to a more intimate observer. We become confidante to his most intimate thoughts and feelings, and details that might at once be dismissed as superfluous become melodious as they shape the tone of our understanding of Zach’s anger, fears, doubts and, ultimately, his need to escape the hinterlands of Colorado and spread his wings in a place where he might not feel so compelled to hide a significant part of who he is. We witness Zach’s evolution as he begins to separate himself from the God of his childhood and then toes a dangerous line drawn by his father—a man with whom the devil seemed to ride shotgun, lying in wait for his fall from grace.
Through this journey we watch as Zach dates local girls and loses his virginity, all while harboring a secret and unspeakable desire. We also watch as the struggle for self-acceptance leads Zach to his first romance with a boy, knowing that nothing good or lasting can come of it in a place like Durango, but celebrating the headiness of it on his behalf all the same. Love, Zach believes, is not for him or men like him, a belief in his mind that weighs like an anvil on a heart that wants to believe there will be someone for him. When he finally makes his escape to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, and meets Doug—the man who will become Zach’s lifeline and touchstone—it’s a weight Zach still struggles with as he begins to buckle from the fear of losing the one thing he wants most.
An integral thread in the fabric of Zach’s life is Alice Faye, the matriarch and bedrock upon whom rests the Nance children’s abiding love and loyalty. She is a pillar of the community, a good and God fearing Baptist spitfire whose strength and humor and no-nonsense approach to nurturing her family contrasted with her struggle to hold on to a failed marriage because she’d promised “‘til death do us part,” and meant it. She is for whom Zach remains the dutiful and faithful son, always, and while the all-important words Zach holds close are never confessed to his momma, I never once doubted that a mother’s intuition gave the sharp-eyed Alice Faye Nance the slip, nor that her love for her children ever came with conditions.
But being your own man and being a dutiful son can, at times, work at cross purposes, and there comes a point when the relationship between parent and child is as stifling as it is sustaining; though, no matter how old, there is always a part of us that clings to and mourns the loss of the innocence of childhood, when clouds took the shape of fantastic beasts and adventures culminated in the safety and security of home. As this story draws to a close, the two decades spent with Zach is, like life, a series of tragedies and triumphs. A Faithful Son is written as if a memoir, peppered with homespun humor and unspoken truths—secrets held close until the closing pages of this story when Zach is finally able to put words to feelings and openly declare his need for the man he loves.
A Faithful Son is one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in quite some time, emotionally and spiritually resonant, and a stunning work of fiction. I’ll carry the memories of this brilliant debut with me for a long time to come.
You can buy A Faithful Son here: