Do you like juicy dysfunctional family tales? Then this is the book for you! Marialyce and I buddy read this one, and are so glad we did!
You’ve probably heard the story is a contemporary nod to the mythological Greek gods. If you are a fan, you’ll pick up on the similarities (even in the dogs Rom and Rem). If you’re not a fan it doesn’t matter, the story is strong enough to stand on its own merits.
The Briscoe family lives in the small Texas town of Olympia. Peter, the family’s patriarch, has three children with his long-suffering wife June, but is a philanderer who has also fathered three children outside of his marriage. As it is in small towns, all of them know and interact with one another.
When the novel opens, Peter and June’s son, March, has returned home after a two year self-imposed exile when it was discovered he’d been sleeping with his brothers wife, Vera.
March has intermittent explosive disorder (yes, it’s a real thing) and his return seems to be the catalyst for long held-secrets and resentments to boil over in the family. There are jealousies, fighting, and lies, and more, culminating in an explosive shocking event. The rest of the novel deals with the fallout of this tragedy.
This family is a flawed mess, yet somehow the author makes them sympathetic and I found myself rooting for them. The women in particular are strong, which I appreciated.
Taking place over the course of seven days, what a week it was! Although the themes are as old as time, the novel feels fresh and fun, and ends with hope for the future for this complicated family.
The format was brilliant with how the sections are titled. The days of the week alternate with backstory sections with titles such as, The Origin of March’s Exile, The Origin of Vera’s Broken Heart, The Origin of Thea’s Anger, The Origin of June’s Rage.
This book will be on my 2021 favorites list. Don’t miss this fantastic page-turning debut!
Family dynamics come in all forms. They can be friendly loving and kind yet often, they can be harsh, unforgiving, and doomed. The dynamics going on in the book Olympus certainly seemed to be of the second variety as their lives twirled, spun, and verged on the frantic during the years of marriage, births of children, both legitimate and not so, and their growth.
The patriarch of the family Peter Briscoe rules the family like a god. He’s a philanderer one who has children scattered throughout the town and yet his poor suffering wife, June loves him so she gives a bit of a nod to her husband’s affairs and carries staunchly on. Her three children have felt the repercussions of her lacking love for them as she caters to Peter. Her daughter is living far away, her son, March who she treats with distinct coldness, has just returned to Olympus and seems to stir up a bucket load of trouble. March had been dallying with his brother’s wife, Vera, and left town two years ago. At his return, we see events again being forced to the surface as Hap, and March circle one another with pent up emotion. Added to the mixture is Peter’s two illegitimate twins, Artie and Arlo who find their once assumed closeness tested by the happenstance of a killing.
Of course, there are the resemblances to the Greek gods and with a kind of quiet yet knowing nod we see that effect in the characters we encounter. The strong ones I felt were the women, who learned or knew that they were not the ones at fault when things go south, for the men, gods that they might think themselves to be, bear the responsibility for their actions.
This is not a family who is able to forgive and forget for the wounds are deep seeded, and at times as they bubble to the surface we wonder if this family will ever be whole. Perhaps whatever they find at the end will be just good enough even though the hurts, anguish, duplicity will never go away. In the end, we have to wonder are all families held loosely together by nothing but tenuous strings that are fragile. One jolt can break them apart and so it is and has been with the Briscoes.
There was much to mull over in this story and truly you don’t need to hold a degree in ancient myths and legends to know and recognize the ability of families to just plain screw everything up.
Jan and I really enjoyed this family turmoil book and although we were lacking in our ancient gods background, we were able to make connections that were both appropriate and so revealed the way families often act.
and here’s the author:
Stacey Swann’s fiction has appeared in The Bridport Prize Anthology 2017, Epoch, Memorious, Versal, Covered W/ Fur, and other journals. A past Stegner Fellow, she teaches with Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and in their Novel Certificate Program. She is contributing editor at the literary journal American Short Fiction.