Saying Uncle / Greg F. Gifune
Friday, September 19, 2008 at 07:46AM
Dark Scribe Magazine in Small Press Chills

Delirium Books / October 2008
Reviewed by: JG Faherty

One of the best things about being a book reviewer is getting to read books by writers who are new to you. I’ve seen Greg Gifune’s name around, and heard good things about him, but until now I’d not had the chance to read anything by him.

Well, you can be sure I’ll be reading more of his books.

Saying Uncle is a tightly-crafted novella that is both an action story and an emotional one. Gifune’s words flow like mountain streams, and like those streams they bite hard when you step into their icy waters. It is a coming-of-age story filled with all the right components: strong characters, dark secrets, dangerous situations, and deep emotions. In short, it’s the kind of book other writers will wish they had written, and readers will be recommending to their friends.

The story revolves around Andy DeMarco, a man who has returned to his childhood home to bury his uncle, who was the defacto father figure in Andy’s early life. But Uncle Paulie had secrets, secrets which changed the DeMarco family forever. Now, years later, Andy must confront the truth about his uncle and the events of 20 years ago, must embark on a mental and spiritual journey that takes him through places both dark and wonderful. Along the way, Andy deals with his own personal demons and attempts to exorcise them.

The basic plot of the story is nothing exceptional - nothing a well-read reader won’t have seen before. It’s a coming of age story about a man thinking back on the past, and coming to grips with how the events of childhood can stay with a person forever, shaping and molding the adult.

But where this book differs from so many others is in Gifune’s writing, his ability to wrap a simple tale with the little details that make for an exceptional book. Nuances in wording, the carefully-crafted chapter endings, and, most importantly, the flow of the story, as it gathers speed and races downhill to its conclusion. It is, ultimately, a story about ordinary people dealing with a terrible problem, and it takes a talented writer to make people like that interesting.

Here is a perfect example of how Gifune’s wordsmithing captures you, draws you in. This is the final paragraph in Chapter 1:

I was fifteen when everything changed forever. The events of that summer helped shape me as a human being and define me as an adult, but also tore a wound through the heart of our family that would never completely heal. For any of us.

Now, that is good shit. How can you read that and not want to know what happens next? In Chapter 2, Andy, as the narrator, describes himself:

My wife once described me as a helium-filled balloon floating along the landscape, occasionally dropping low enough to scrape the Earth but always returning to the air before a fixed location could be established.

I love it. It’s tidbits like these, placed ever-so-carefully throughout the story, that bring this book to the next level. In that, and other, respects, it reminded me a lot of King’s “The Body,” later released as the film Stand By Me.

Saying Uncle is a fast read; with a minimum amount of effort it can be finished in one sitting, or two if you’re starting it at lunch and finishing it after dinner, as I did. But unlike some novellas, there is no sense of having been cheated, of wishing the book was longer. This book is exactly the right length to tell its story, with no wasted words, and yet it’s not too lean; you wouldn’t want to lose a single word, either.

By the time you read this, Saying Uncle should be hitting the online stores. Do yourself a favor and buy it. You’ll be happy you did.

Purchase Saying Uncle by Greg F. Gifune.

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