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The First Law of Motion / K.R. Moorhead

St. Martin’s Griffin / November 2009
Reviewed by: Beth Harrington

Upon skimming the first few pages of K.R. Moorhead’s debut novel in which the unnamed protagonist swears like a sailor and stumbles in and out of coke parties, it would be easy to dismiss it as another novel either preaching against or rhapsodizing about a hedonistic, lawless existence of excess etched in destruction. However, this would be a mistake as The First Law of Motion succeeds on a number of levels both as a page-turner and as a surprisingly poignant case study of a seemingly ordinary twenty-something woman whose life is slowly shattering due to her recklessness and lack of self-control.

A young woman, grief-stricken after a breakup with a boyfriend who had the potential to be The One, takes up the sex-and-drugs party lifestyle full-force in order to numb her pain and avoid having to choose direction for her life. Living in Philadelphia with her best friend, the master flirt, Kat, she shoots up to New York in the middle of the night to party with her best friend Jason, and then down to New Jersey to visit her mother-cum-weed dealer. When she notices an older man on a train reading a novel that she enjoyed in a college course she took with her ex, she is convinced that he will become her savior and concocts a series of explicit fantasies about him. She even goes so far as to break into his apartment while he is at work. In a particularly vivid scene, she discovers drafts of stories on his laptop and saves them onto her portable flash memory drive:

“[I] take the pen drive … off its key ring and insert it into the side of his computer. It feels like an intimate act. A coming together. I consider whether I should feel as though I’m violating a boundary of some kind.”

It is one of the most uniquely erotic images – at least for anyone who takes writing seriously – to pop up in a book.

What saves The First Law of Motion from lapsing into any number of the clichés that can be drawn from the synopsis above is the presence of several factors — first and foremost, the narrator herself. Her dry, sardonic nature reflects a frank awareness of her life that is devoid of self-pity. She doesn’t try to sell us with a sob story about mental illness or parents who didn’t love her enough; rather, she bluntly acknowledges that the failure of her relationship was her own fault. Simultaneously, Moorhead scores points for originality: delineating a relationship between the narrator and her mother, which is surprisingly warm and concerned, despite – or perhaps because of – her mother’s permissive tendencies. She also includes a harrowing scene in which the narrator confronts the consequences of her irresponsible behavior on someone besides herself in the death of her cat.

The First Law of Motion may throw a few stray curveballs that don’t quite resolve at its conclusion, but its brevity and its market appearance as a straightforward thriller work to its advantage. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of thoughtfulness, originality, and sensitivity – along with unsettling images – that this suspense novel contains.

Purchase The First Law of Motion by K.R. Moorhead

Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 06:55PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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