Contrary Motion (★★★☆☆)

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Andy Mozina  *  Spiegel & Grau  *  March 8, 2016  *  288 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy received through Amazon Vine.

Matt Grzbc is going through a period of adjustment. He’s a newly divorced dad, and he’s trying really hard to maintain a somewhat meaningful relationship with his six-year old daughter. (So far, he’s not doing well.) He’s also a professional harpist, and though he always has a steady stream of smaller gigs lined up, his career has plateaued. To top it off, his dad has just died, and now Matt is having dizzy spells and panic attacks on the regular. In other words, Matt is struggling. He’s living day to day, basically praying to the universe that he can keep it all together for just a little bit longer.

This book is a lot more serious and depressing than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting humor and lightness, but there isn’t much here. So many things go wrong in Matt’s life; it’s one thing after another. And as more and more things pile up for Matt, the story starts feeling really unbelievable. The crazy incident that happens with Matt’s daughter, especially, is completely bizarre to me. As a parent of a six-year old, I just couldn’t buy it. Truthfully, his entire relationship with his daughter confused me. It seemed very out-of-touch and unrealistic.

More troubling to the story, though, is that Matt, as a character, doesn’t really change or develop much over the course of the book. All these bad things happen, but he doesn’t ever know how to deal with any of it. I wish he had had at least SOME insight into his own problems. Instead, he acts like a frightened child most of the time–just kind of standing there wide-eyed, hoping that if he doesn’t make a move or say anything, no one will notice how terrified he is. I get that people are like that in real life, but it doesn’t make for interesting reading.

In the end, I appreciated author Mozina’s willingness to write a story like this from the perspective of a single dad trying to figure things out. I also liked learning about the harp, and I was happy with how things worked out for Matt. But I still wish there had been more to Matt’s character. I finished the story and thought, “Yeah, I’m glad I don’t know that guy in real life.” He just didn’t engage me at all.

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