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Sometimes a novel traffics such beauty it feels foolhardy to assign descriptors, analogies, adjectives. It becomes a visceral thing. Sure it evokes a myriad of emotions beneath, but what you’ll also notice is tight and lumpy and hard throats. Red welled eyes. Quickened breath. A disregard to your environment. Time stops or time flies but you can’t discern the difference. Patrick Thomas Casey’s debut Our Burden’s Light is such a novel. The writing is brave and formidable. It is lyrical and poignant. It should go without saying that a debut should not be this good. It is deep insult to aspiring writers and it sets the bar way too high for Casey’s follow up. How often can you say that a book of such magnitude actually does a disservice to the writer?
Our Burden’s Light slowly and mysteriously unfolds the human condition like only a seasoned poet can. The central narrative is the story of two families wracked by tragedy. It’s a classic tale of love and loss and death and redemption and healing but there is nothing contrived in Casey’s writing. His voice is wholly his own and engages the reader from the first word. Its cadence and austerity lulls the reader into the rhythm and lives of these characters. Short vignettes intersperse the main story. They are superbly crafted and offer depth to the setting, the Shenandoah Valley. These vignettes, these different lives and characters from the main story, help paint a rich picture of life in rural Virginia. They are the stories of others dealing with loss, with tragedy. Those that have fled the valley but haven’t, no matter how hard they try, really left. Those that wish to leave but are bound.
It’s a Southern book in the most grounded way possible. Men grab ice out of salad bowls to refill their whiskey glasses. Fathers and sons ruminate on life’s mysteries in rooms incensed with deep leather furniture and bluish cigarette smoke. The whiskey tastes of smoke and deep oak and isn’t drunk for the ‘fast escape but for the slow warmth that it always promised.’ Casey has created something truly magical here. A thing of singular beauty. Read this now and become changed.