Caught in a riptide of haphazard underemployment, at turns violent and unpredictable, suffering under a bad economy with no family or friends to speak of, Stratton Brown longs for the chance to escape his small-town past and build a new life. He sets out for Chicago, where he meets a new and fresh hell: a nine-to-fiver in a nondescript, meaningless company, and an obsessive love affair with woman who may be a bit too attached to her abusive ex-boyfriend. Is this all America has to offer its twentysomethings? He’ll soon have to figure out that beneath the gruff labor of building a new life lies the presence of something much more true: a way past his violent childhood and a new path to the American dream.At Dawn is a literary debut of a fresh and powerful male voice in fiction.
You know a good book when you start reading and can just listen to the voice speaking to you from the page. Whether you like it or not, it absorbs every part of your being not wanting to put it down until the last page. Beautifully written, At Dawn, captures a life at it's authentic core exposing a vulnerability that many feel but cannot express. Hughes brings to life an unlikable character, whose broken soul permeates through the pages for an emotional and engaging must read that will linger in your mind after you finish reading.
We always praise women writers for creating characters that are in depth with such richness and complexity to their evolution. I had to take a double take to the back cover as I was reading because as a man to capture a voice that never faulted through this story was just breathtaking. You don't come across many books written by men that really dive into the core and exposes a insecure, vulnerable character that connects the reader to pull at every emotion that is beneath the surface.
The heart of the book, Stratton Brown, is a character that as a reader you will remember for a long time. His story tells of a broken man trying to escape his past to start a new life. Relocating to Chicago, we are navigated through a complex and emotional series of event that take him to the bottom of emotional despair and face a past that he has tried so hard to escape from. His past, being like a noose suffocating his ability to move forward, has crippled his life giving the reader a story that you really can sink right into. He is someone who had a violent childhood, failed relationships, dead end jobs and with ever step forward, life pushes him back two. On the surface, his personality appears to be a jerk, riding on his one man pity party defeated by his self inflicted wounds from life. As you get more into the book, like the old saying, "You never know a man's life until you have walked a mile in their shoes," rings true. As much as you don't like him, as his story unfolds, your heart is softened once secrets of his past are revealed. You can't help but feel sorry for someone who has had a life like that and through that defeat you want to root for him to find a way.
This is just one of the books that you just have to read for yourself to experience. Filled with emotion, beautiful writing, and a story that as a reader you can appreciate, I would definitely recommend you adding this to your reading list.
Reviewed by Michelle Bowles
Publisher: Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date: 10/16/2012