Reviews of Jack Remick’s Novels

The Book of Changes in ForeWord Reviews

ForeWord Reviews
LITERARY
The Book of Changes
Jack Remick
Coffeetown Press
978-1-60381-186-6
(Oct 15, 2013)
  One rebellious college student’s study of the Middle Ages parallels his tumultuous journey into adulthood.
 The Book of Changes, by Jack Remick, is a compelling coming-of-age novel with a keen sense of character and place. It’s the third in Remick’s California Quartet—The Deification and Valley Boyare the first two installments, and the quartet will finish with the forthcoming Trio of Lost Souls. Each book in the series traces a different young man’s coming-of-age story in different locations in the state. Because each book has a different character, readers don’t need to have read the previous books.
In this installment, Beast arrives at Berkeley to study the Middle Ages. At the same time, he faces a tumultuous time of painful trial-and-error learning that mirrors his historical era of interest. The novel presents a vivid look at the political and social unrest and upheaval that captivated Berkeley in the 1970s. Remick takes a deeply personal look at this broad environment by situating the story from Beast’s point of view. This authorial choice gives the novel an intensity and emotional weight as Beast faces high stakes with decisions about drugs, sex, academics, and life and death.
The book is divided into two sections, “Revolution” and “Rebellion,” that echo the protagonist’s journey from innocence, through dark terrain, and into maturity. The contrasting closing passages of each section vividly portray the change in Beast’s life. He goes from self-pity, grief, and anger—“If I lived long enough, I’d see them all dead. Death was a plague. Where I went, death followed. I punched the sofa.”—to self-control and a sense of the value of personal responsibility—“‘My apartment is just around the corner and I’ve got fifty grams of Moroccan hash so why don’t you come up with me?’ I thought about it. Just around the corner. Fifty grams of hash. I thought about it, but then I pulled away.”
Remick’s mastery of the narrative craft infuses a common story line—college kid faces challenges and grows up—with an intimate sense of character and setting. Remick even reveals
Beast’s character in the way Beast describes other characters: “She was built like a stevedore and she wore blue and gray plaid shirts.”
    The Book of Changes shines in the crowded genre of coming-of-age narratives.
Melissa Wuske

ForeWord Reviews is available on-line or in print media.

Sarah Knoll’s Reviews > Gabriela and The Widow

Gabriela and The Widow
by Jack Remick (Goodreads Author)

15138266

Sarah Knoll‘s review

Dec 26, 13

What were your overall thoughts about the book? Quite possibly, this is the best story I’ve been told in a long time. The author spun a marvelous, entertaining story based on the life of a single young woman who wanted to be accepted.

What do you think the author was trying to accomplish with this novel? He wanted to highlight how some women are treated, in my opinion. At first, you think the story is an exaggeration but as Gabriela’s story sinks in it is easy to imagine the low status given to women by men crave for power.Who was your favorite character? Gabriela was a determined character and reminded me of Hester Prynne from The Scarlett Letter. There are many layers to her which you can’t really appreciate all at once but one way or another, this is a character who will touch your heart.Disclosure – As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

by  (Goodreads Author)

5197479

‘s review

Oct 14, 13
Read in October, 2013
A satisfying read. Covering much the same cultural terrain as Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road, The Book of Changes follows a young narrator’s coming-of-age in Berkeley. Yet Jack Remick’s take on the cultural revolution humanizes familiar material. Beast, the narrator, starts off eager for initiation into the Berkeley scene: the university, the drugs, the “broads”, the art. But unlike Kerouac’s protagonist who rides from town to town, indifferent to and unaccountable for the consequences of his choices, Remick gives us a conscientious young man. Beast sticks around long enough to see the aftermath of drug addiction and free love. And the trail of wreckage deeply affects him. As the deaths and broken relationships tally up in his friends’ lives, Beast develops a more honest, compassionate perspective than Kerouac’s characters ever achieved. A moving tale of one young man’s struggle to carve out his own dignity and truth in the midst of radical turbulence.

Nicole Disney’s Reviews > Blood


by  (Goodreads Author)

19714709

‘s review

Jul 02, 13
Read from June 25 to 30, 2013
Blood is a visceral experience, taking you deep inside the skin of a killer, where you will find him both repulsive and relatable. Jack Remick writes prose with such poetic fluidity and effortlessly calls beliefs on humanity into the spotlight to be rigorously challenged. The urge to intellectualize this story may arise, but to feel and live inside it is to truly unlock its power.

Mitch has put considerable effort into earning a five year sentence in prison. The laughable offense of stealing women’s underwear is what lands him in the cell, but Mitch has real blood on his hands. He decides to turn his life into a book, and horrifying stories of slit throats, spilled intestines, and severed ears stain the pages with violence, hate, and misanthropy.

There is a truly chilling mentality shift Mitch undergoes that is worth noting. He begins with a disrespect for not just life but humans and their simplicity. He sees them as lying, cheating, killing, destructive creatures who never can and never will do more good than evil. He doesn’t believe in or want salvation, he cares little for redemption, really all he wants is a quiet place to write. He takes satisfaction in semen spilled into the bedsheets, into his hand, into another man, anywhere that lacks the danger of procreating and continuing the human race.

Mitch’s entire family is one of killers. There seems to be a violent gene being handed down, particularly from father to son. This is the point upon which Mitch’s views will pivot. As Mitch gets deeper into his own mind, he realizes that discontinuing his own blood line was a mistake. To achieve the ultimate utopia of a world devoid of human beings, people need to disappear. Mitch decides the murders he committed were a mistake, not for any sentimental reasons but because the men he murdered were often killers themselves. Any children he might have fathered were it not for his vasectomy would have been carriers of the same violent gene and those children could have grown up to kill hundreds. He regrets not the killing, but the killing of killers. If the goal is to destroy humanity, then the more murderers there are in the world, the better.

Brittany Wilson‘s review  of Gabriela and The Widow on Goodreads:

Dec 11, 13

5 of 5 stars

…Top 3 things I liked about the whole book – This is an author who has unbelievable storytelling skills. The story was a fast read, entertaining and magical. The way he explored the relationship between these two women and shared it with the reader was fascinating. I highly recommend this book

 

Danika Dinsmore’s Reviews > The Deification


by  (Goodreads Author)

3333533

‘s review

Jul 10, 12
Read in May, 2012
A young poet’s search for immortality and all the sad-beautiful-mad humans that are in and on, and at the end of, his path.It may be a book for artists and writers and poets and musicians. It’s not going to be the book for everyone. There’s a lot of rawness here and a lot of bodily fluids. Sometimes I was in love and repelled at the same time – in a good way.

I loved how it floated in and out of the real and surreal and metaphor like changing socks. The rhythm and voice are completely authentic; I felt like a voyeur reading it, as if the writer himself were showing me his wounds. And most likely he was, because he’s a poet.

It is an homage to the Beat poets, and recreates contemporary versions of Kerouac and friends. It’s also part of a quartet of books. Of the second book, reviewer Jodi Lea Stewart said, It is as though I have stepped back in time to the days when writing was truly an art form and not a scientific venture into so much of a percentage of dialogue vs. action vs. narrative. No worries as to whether or not an agent or editor or some “god” of the publishing world will approve or not approve… raw, exquisite writing talent splashed onto the page with such audacity and nerve that it gives you a heartache that burns a hole right through your spirit.

I hope Jodi doesn’t mind me borrowing her quote. I honestly could not have put it better myself. Heartache is the perfect word, and it feels like I have to recover from the first heartache before I can read the next one. It’s definitely a book I want to have time for, take my time with.

GABRIELA AND THE WIDOW – BOOK REVIEW

by Rebecca Graf


A book that is deep and more than just a story is a book that will stay in head for many years. I think I found such a book in Gabriela and the Widow.

Gabriela finds herself struggling to survive in her native land as war ends just as bloody as it started. She runs from one evil to find herself in the hands of another. Eventually, she makes her way to the states where she becomes the nurse/assistant of a dying widow whose life is many stories that would take years to tell.

It is through the widow’s telling of her life that Gabriela matures and discovers other worlds that expand the meaning of her own life.

The characters are very intriguing. They are not perfect. They are not all bad. I do think that the character, the widow, was the one that was the most well-developed. She shifted between her various mental states in a way that had the reader experiencing the same confusion, frustration, and admiration that Gabriela felt. I think every character in the book was interesting with hints of their own stories that could have been told in depth outside of this book. Each one showed they were more than a character helping the two main ones on their literary journey. They all had life.

The story is extremely captivating. You want to keep reading to find out what is next is store for the young girl and what new things she will discover with from the widow. Many times, the reader is taken into a dream world that connects the two characters and reveals much about their past and their future.

Overall, the pace is very slow. This is not an action story or a mystery. It is a drama that is emotional as well as verbal. You will find that you can easily set the book down at the end of each chapter and resume it quickly the next time you dive in. At the same time, you want to keep reading to see what will happen next.

Mr. Remick’s style is extremely interesting and had me scratching my head one minute and smiling the next. He mixes history in with psychological explorations of the characters. This is more than a simple story. This is a detailed examination of life.

There are some intense scenes that are not described in ways that are vulgar, but they do come close. Most words and used in a cryptic manner, but the reader would easily be able to understand them though Gabriela might not. There is a lot of Spanish in it, but translations occur throughout the story as Gabriela learns English.

If you like a deep book that will take you more than a day or two to read, I strongly suggest you check this book out. Mr. Remick is a master at writing.

Note: This book was received as part of a tour with no expectation of a positive review.

This review was formerly posted on A Book Lover’s Library.

To purchase your own copy, click on the cover above.

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