Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)
This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain. The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne). What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger. There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.
Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires. She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy. Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.
Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable. The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged. Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention. Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!
Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art. Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie. These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.
In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts. Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh. She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.
Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking. Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.
This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships. It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling. Highly recommended although it is not light reading.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A copy of the book was received from the publisher. Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.