4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who desire their indie lit dark and mysterious
Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms
Releasing: December 2014
Ryan W Bradley's arrestingly designed upcoming novel Winterswim shocks the system in much the same way that being immersed under freezing cold waves would. Gasping and sputtering, his sparse language pulls you under from the very first page:
"There were a few inches of snow on the ground and more falling. The pastor walked to the edge of the lake cautiously, dragging the girl, naked but for a pair of white ankle socks, behind him."
Though incredibly different from anything he's written before, Winterswim still contains much of what we love about Ryan - gritty sex scenes, tons of underage drugs, that comfortable uncomfortableness we've come to know - and now, this... a new element of murder....
Within its pages, we are introduced to Pastor Sheldon, a man who has decided to take the Lord's work into his own hands; judging for himself those who are full of sin and in need of his intervention to become clean and worthy of heaven once more. His understanding of religion is unorthodox - a mix of his abusive father's sermons and his mute mother's tribal beliefs - and his method of cleansing, a sin itself. One that he is willing to commit. One that he believes to be incredibly necessary.
At the same time, we are introduced to Steven, Sheldon's son, and his pensive infatuations with every hot girl who attends his school. Though, suddenly, those girls begin turning up in the local mortuary, pulled from the frozen lakes that border the town. The word on the street is that they were accidental drownings, but Steven's not so sure. Enlisting the help of Kate, an old crush of his who's recently returned from Hollywood, they decide to investigate and the clues they uncover begin to lead them in a direction neither one could predict.
A lightening quick read that sobers you up as it drags you down, Winterswim showcases the psychotic side of religion and the lasting, devastating scars of familial abuse. Gone is the sweet, heart-wrenching, incredibly sexy poetry I first came to know Bradley through. Here instead he has birthed a monster, one who is called intensely by powers outside of (and within) himself, prowling his congregation for willing victims to whom he can play savior and saint.
If nothing else, it'll cause your lady parts to curl up and hide, and cause you to look at religious figures a tad bit differently in the future.