All my other books are pushed aside when a new book by Pete Fromm appears at our shop. I’ve been a fan of Pete’s for years and he has visited our store to speak and sign on several occasions.
Pete wrote two of my all-time favorite memoirs, “Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness” and “The Names of the Stars: A Life in the Wild.” This guy can write, and he handles fiction and nonfiction equally well, being especially adept at exposing his inner parental angst with lyrical prose.
His love for his own wife and sons shines through his memoirs, and he has continued to plumb the depths of that love in this new novel set in Montana. In his characteristic, gut-wrenching way, he examines love and relationships with tenderness and honesty laced with wit and profound insight.
The cover of Pete’s new book is evocative. A pregnant belly cradled from above by a woman’s arm and below by a man’s hand immediately reminded me of the joy and fear of bringing a new life into the world while feeling very inept. This is the crux of the story.
A quote from Joseph Millar’s “American Wedding” opens the narrative:
When the groom lifts the veil from her delicate temples, I’m thinking someone should warn them: a future of funerals, car payments, taxes, kids throwing up in the night. It’s a job you mostly won’t know how to do, your naked arm deep in a jammed kitchen sink, burnt rinds of eggplant, crazily adrift.
Taz is a young husband, a finish carpenter, mostly freelancing. His wife, Marnie, is a free-spirited soulmate, up to her elbows in helping him restore the fixer-upper they’ve bought. Neither has a great relationship with their own parents. Taz’s have run away to New Zealand and they’ve never even met Marnie. Marnie and her mom just can’t seem to get along, and sometimes her attempts at helpfulness feel a lot like intrusion.
Things aren’t perfect, but the playful days of young marriage are filled with laughter, working together and friendship with Rudy, also known as Rude, Taz’s friend who appears daily around mealtime. He can be endearing, though, helping when needed and a sounding board for Taz’s worry. Money is very tight.
One day while Taz is working on the never-ending list of things needed to make their house more inhabitable, Marnie surprises Taz with the results from her home-pregnancy test: positive. They are surprised, but happy. Now there is a louder clock ticking through the long list to get the bathroom plumbed, the Sheetrock up, the nursery painted before delivery day. The pressure is mounting for Taz. He can’t seem to get ahead. They are living from job to job.
He doesn’t want to talk about it. She is a mother cat wondering where her kittens will be born.
Pete Fromm will be at Inklings to tell you all about his new book at 7 p.m. today. Don’t miss meeting this talented author, father and professor from Pacific University. A five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association Book Award, Pete lives in Montana with his family.
• “A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do” by Pete Fromm was published by Counterpoint Press in May. It retails for $26.
• Susan Richmond is the owner of Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space every week.