A Sibling in Always by Ernest Gordon Taulbee

A Sibling in Always by Ernest Gordon Taulbee

When a severely deformed corpse lands on his embalming table, skilled mortician, Horace Carver is forced to confront his apathy towards life and the dark secrets hidden within himself, his family, and his hometown of Always, Indiana.

This engaging novel finds a depth that is often missing in many of today’s books. Laden with literary devices and allusions, including themes borrowed from ancient mythology, this book immerses itself into the broadened and modernizing Mid-Western culture of the late 1970’s to 2008, highlighting the prose with delicate harmonic overtones of the Near South.

The prose has the classic sensibilities of JD Salinger meets Kurt Vonnegutt with the poetic nuances and timing of Bobbie Ann Mason or Barbara Kingsolver. It also uses tightly metered poetry that often serves as the reader’s guide while experiencing the novel.

The story itself is one of tragedy and rebirth, as the main character Horace Carver serves as both a reluctant and unreliable narrator as he struggles to find his place in the world and the voice with which he will tell his story. In a similar fashion, the secondary narrator, Dr. Elmer Ellsworth, struggles with his own sense of self as he ends a career of hope and promise only to delve into madness as he cares for the peculiar little sibling: Acquila Rose.

Though several of the characters find their origin in Greek and Egyptian mythology, they become real and flawed people, struggling to understand the lives they are living and the people who surround them. The author allows them to remain ambiguous and confused, even when the conventions of literature would demand the conflict be resolved.

The majority of the novel takes place in 2008, the last year people paid attention to each other, before turning their attention to smartphones. Written in a present and intense manner, the story will please those who demand a higher level of literary discourse as well as those who prefer a fetching contemporary read.

This novel departs from the dictates of corporate "literary" novels while disregarding the conventions of the MFA produced works that have caused a glut in modern American Literature. Read with a sense of ease and earnestness.