Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words
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Joseph Mulak is the author of several short stories, many of which are collected in Haunted Whispers. Flushed is his first novel. He lives in North Bay, Ontario with his four children and is at work on a new novel.
Ivan ekes out a living playing poker for low stakes at his local casino. He’s a disappointment to his parents. His wife, frustrated by his reluctance to accept responsibility, has left him. The story follows Ivan over the period of a few weeks as a series of unexpected events cause him to reassess his life.
This novel grabbed hold of me and didn’t let go. I read it in two late-night sittings. On the face of it, it’s difficult to define exactly what gripped me so strongly. The pacing is laid-back—just like the main character. There are no explosions or near-death experiences. But the way Ivan reacts to external events is so believable, and so typical of a man, that I found myself smiling and nodding my way through the story.
Ivan is a million miles from marriage material. He loved his wife, so he did try to conform to how society expects a husband to behave. But his married life was a constant struggle between his selfish (lazy? immature?) personality, and his innate desire to please his woman.
As the author throws curve balls at Ivan (and there were a couple of doozies), his response always stays true to his character. To me, that was the magic in the story—it stays true to life and to Ivan throughout. Even when there were opportunities to give Ivan and the other characters an easy way out, the author resisted, and that truth shone through—kudos, Mr. Mulak. This was an unusual story, and a lot of fun to read.
Not enough to distract. The story is listed as romantic suspense. I think it fits better in the contemporary fiction category.
Rating: ***** Five stars