Author: Caraway Carter
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Length: 142 Pages
At a Glance: There were some good moments in this story, but in the end, PS meandered a bit too far afield and lost its way on one too many occasions to remain a cohesive novel.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Looking back, it was kind of crazy to put a down payment on a fallen-down train depot I’d never actually seen, in a state I’d never actually been to, and use it to build a life with a guy I’d never actually met, but love makes people do crazy things. If you’ve ever been in love, you know what I mean.
But before the plane had landed, I found out that Sam—the guy I’d met online and had been talking to for four years—wasn’t really Sam. He wasn’t even a guy.
I already own the little train depot, and I can’t go back to my old life. And Fairville is such a lovely welcoming town. Did I mention James? He’s made sure that I’ve had a really warm welcome.
All I want is to build a great little bookstore, and have a relationship based on humor, honesty, and hardbacks. I see some tough choices ahead of me.
Or maybe I don’t have to choose…
Review: Caraway Carter’s novel PS addresses a growing problem in our society, but certainly not a new one: catphishing. In the story, our poor main character, Gus Mead, has literally invested nearly every cent he has into buying a retired train depot in Vermont in the hopes of renovating it and turning it into a bookstore/café. He also hoped to be meeting the man he’d fallen in love with online, Sam, and having their very own happy-ever-after together. For four long years, Gus and Sam had an online relationship that had morphed into a declaration of love and intention to live together—until Sam, supposedly, turned out to be a she—a girl who admitted to Gus that he was just a thesis experiment for a college course that had gotten out of hand. The “Sam” Gus had fallen in love with, had planned a future with, had sunk his entire life savings into a decrepit train depot for, was apparently just some guy who had needed a place to crash and done the job of leading Gus on for four long years as a favor to the girl who was currently ruining Gus’s life with her revelations of him being a victim of an elaborate catphishing scheme.
The problem was that Gus was already on a plane to Vermont and had to move forward with his business deal, or lose everything. So, he did what he had to and landed in a small town in Vermont to take up a new life and try to make something of the emotional shambles his love life had become. Along the way he will be embraced by a town that will do just about anything to help this stranger who has decided to invest love and money into its beloved historical train depot that has lain untouched for years. He will make friends with many, and find a special bond with one—the town handyman/electrician, James Boyer. But most startling is that he will come face-to-face with the real Sam, find out the truth behind who he is, and also who the woman actually is who broke the news to Gus about the catphishing. Those two people will turn out to be way more interesting than Gus could ever have imagined.
PS had all the bones for a good story with a particularly fascinating theme, centering around the idea that someone could completely be taken in by another person to the extent where they turned their lives totally upside down. Gus was incredibly sweet and naïve. And Sam, well, I still am reeling from just how despicable a person he turned out to be, and really wonder how Kelly could manage to see anything in him after his behavior. The book also explored what a poly relationship could look like, and even though I felt that aspect of the novel was not so well written, and potentially cast polyamorous relationships in a negative light, I could still appreciate that the author pulled that plot arc into the novel. I’m sorry to be vague on that point, but to explain who was involved in a poly lifestyle is to give away a bit too much of the story, and would definitely spoil the reading of the book for you. Suffice it to say that nothing is as it seems when Gus steps off that plane, and, as is the case in many small towns, many lives intersect in interesting ways.
What I can tell you is this: the members of the small community that surround Gus are memorable and very kind. They help him, often to the point of being nearly unbelievable, as one person after another extends their professional expertise to renovate the depot at no cost to Gus’s wallet. The man who will eventually heal poor Gus’s heart is most assuredly the kindest person ever crafted in a novel, and the most complex. James regrets things he’s done in the past to those he loved, and when Gus tells him they should take it slow, he’s ready to do just that. The complex ties James has to Sam are never fully explored, but we get just enough of their backstory to understand how Sam is so familiar around James and never hesitates to cross a line that both James and Gus find surprising and uncomfortable.
There were some good moments in this story: the developing relationship between Gus and James, the lush prose depicting the scenic views around Vermont, including the covered bridges and small towns the two of them explore, and the idea that strangers can find it in their hearts to welcome someone new with ease and love. Unfortunately, Caraway Carter tends to leave important backstories to the imagination, and when that is coupled with some rather stilted portions of dialogue and some rather bizarre behavior on the part of his characters, the story tends to derail and wander into confusing territory. I found myself shaking my head at some of the forced scenarios the story offered up, particularly the interactions between Sam, Kelly, and Gus. I also got lost occasionally, trying to figure out how everyone fit together and what the full story was behind Gus and Kelly’s unique relationship.
In the end, PS meandered a bit too far afield and lost its way on one too many occasions to remain a cohesive novel. The dialogue was sometimes oddly paced and phrased in such a way as to make the reader stumble and have to reread in order to make sense of it. But the real drawback was the fact that the story felt incomplete, the happy-ever-after a bit rushed, and the catphishers never really made to atone for their atrocious behavior toward poor Gus. All in all, the story was good but felt just a bit unfinished in the end.
You can buy PS here: