Jack Remick Reviews Scott Driscoll’s Better You Go Home
Guest Post by Jack Remick: Jack Remick co-authored The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, with Robert J. Ray. He has a collection of short fiction, Terminal Weird (Black Heron Press), a novel, The Stolen House (Pig Iron Press) as well as work in The Seattle Five Plus One, an anthology (Pig Iron Press). Jack’s stories and poems have appeared in national magazines such as Carolina Quarterly, Portland Review, Big Hammer, Cafe Noir Review, and Northwind. Remick has lived and worked extensively in Latin America. Check out his websites: Remick Writes & Bob and Jack’s Writing Blog.
Better You Go Home
Scott Driscoll nails it here. Writing in America in the 21st Century is about family.
Early in our writing we hungered for adventure, the high mountains, the desert, the hunt. We wrote about the diaspora from the Old World to the New and in so doing we lost contact with our roots. Something happened—we fragmented. We got got off track. But family is salvation, and Driscoll makes that clear. Writing in our century is taking us home.
We have to write about family. We are so hungry now for home and family we write about the Marines as family, the family of a baseball team, a business as family. We seek out friends who treat us like family. Family is our great quest—we need to belong.
We are now a nation of single parents, lost children, broken homes, and brother and sister separated by insane immigration policies—once it was no Jews, please, no Chinese, please, no Irish, please. Now, nobody is welcome. Immigration built the country, but in this century, somebody slammed the lid on the melting pot and we’re all cut off. In these first two decades of the 21st Century, we are shattered. We need to get home. Home, as Robert Frost tells us:
“is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in.”
In Scott Driscoll’s novel Better You Go Home (Coffeetown Press, 236 pages, $13.95 trade paperback), you’ll find the word family 106 times, the word home 100 times. Something’s going on here. We return to the Old Country with the protagonist—Chico Lenoch—to a family torn apart by the early diaspora, the Nazi rape of Europe in the Second World War, the Communist theft of the body. Here, in Mother Europa, Driscoll dives into the meaning of family: Family can hurt, family can heal. Family can punish, family can save. Chico Lenoch is in pain. He’s dying. “I’m looking at renal failure. My doctor gives me a few months, tops. If my internist had his way, I wouldn’t be here now. I’d be home on my couch preparing for dialysis…”
Chico needs help and there’s one chance for salvation—a half sister, the child of the father who abandoned the Old World. Searching for his sister, anxious about his future, Chico returns to his roots but can he even ask family to make the sacrifice that will save him? Family can give you a body part, save you, keep you going. Chico needs this half-sister. On the quest for salvation, Chico discovers that only family can give answers to all his questions about life and death.
The story is complex, the characters rich and thick and vibrant. There’s love and sex, there’s hope and redemption, there’s sin and forgiveness, there’s death and torture. But, as Driscoll tells us, in the right circumstances “…even torture can be a sign of love.”
Reversing the thrust of diaspora and immigration, Chico returns with his father to the Old Country. In the end, homecoming is what it’s all about: “I’m the lucky man,” the father says. “I am with my family in my birth land and free of the hungers that will eat him alive.”
This is a novel we all should read because it might help us get in touch with where we came from. We’re not all that different. Some of us just drive bigger cars.
Discloser: Jack and Scott both write for Coffeetown Press.