Chris Adrian: nervy, brainy Promise Breaker

I found this story via a link from Maud Newton several months ago—but I wasn’t blogging then, and it’s stayed on my mind ever since, so I’ll blog about it now: Chris Adrian‘s “Promise Breaker” is spectacularly good, an you can read it online for free thanks to Esquire. (You do have to suffer through the presence of a large number of gaudy, highly obtrusive ads in order to read it—but trust me, it’s worth it.)

I’m not actually going to say too much about this story, for fear of spoiling its plot and ruining some of the great effects that Adrian pulls off via surprise. The opening of the story employs various tactics intended to disorient the reader—a device that ends up serving very well here. Near the end, I had a sinking feeling that I knew exactly what was going to happen—and then when it did, I was devastated all the same, and I was astonished that Adrian had actually done what I thought he might.

It’s a story about family, grief, illness, and the strangeness and terror of being a parent. It’s a political story, too, and one of the boldest I’ve read in tackling the events and aftermath of September 11. (It’s a shame how writers & other artists seem to be only beginning to seriously approach this topic— and when Don DeLillo took it on in his terrific Falling Man, the book ended up being broadly maligned.) It’s a nervy, brainy, edgy story, and it’s highly suspenseful and utterly engrossing. I haven’t yet read anything else that Adrian has written, but if any of it’s half as good as this, I’ll definitely be a fan.


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