I loved The Hart & Horn. This is a true indie novel, in the best sense. It’s the kind of book that’s hard to put into a category; it is its own unique thing. Traditional publishers don’t take many chances these days, they can’t, their industry is at risk. So they like formulas that have worked before. They can’t take chances on unique until it makes them millions and then they want more of the same unique. Enter the indie. C. S. Gordon uses Smashwords.
Don is a drifting twenty-something, fast approaching thirty. Unhappy in his auto company office job, living in his parents’ basement, he is without hope or joy. We think we know this guy. He’s the one in all the Judd Apatow movies, the guy in early novels by Tom Perrotta and Nick Hornby. When he gets fired and his parents ask him to move out, he’s not that guy anymore.
Don thinks about when and where he was happiest. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his best friend Nate, he decides, and just as quickly moves north. Problem is, Nate and Don aren’t kids anymore, but they still have the mindset of young adults who live to party.
Don works when he has to, at jobs he does not love, and takes classes at the local college that sound interesting for their own sake, things like medieval music, where he meets Cassie. He’s still drifting, and now without his pal Nate, who is going through a life-changing journey of his own. Cassie is older, has a kid, has a plan. Sparks fly when they see each other at a bar, both there to listen to the lovely voice of their mysterious music teacher as he sings and plays the lute.
The main question is always will Don grow up? There are plenty of other questions that keep the story boiling, and this is one of the things I love the most. C. S. Gordon doesn’t keep to consecutive time, but feels free to imagine a past that impacts Don’s present. There are jumps into future years as well that satisfy in a way a lot of mainstream books just don’t. She handles the various plotlines with depth and honesty and things never get boring for even one minute.
Her prose is lovely, almost invisible except for when she’s describing the beauty of the natural world Don has found in the U.P. and then her vision is clear and true and makes me see that world so clearly. Great characters, great setting, great plot, great writing. You will be happy to lose yourself in this one.