24 Aug Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno
A heartfelt, beautiful debut about love, grief and redemption
Emma sits alone in her hometown bar, The Final Final, for the evening, reflecting on the breakdown of her marriage to Lucas, the man she met in that same bar on a blind date just a few years previously.
At first glance, Emma and Lucas don’t seem suited. She’s a powerhouse in the business world, teacher, author of a highly-successful book and manager of a multi-million dollar hedge fund, while he’s a plasterer, good with his hands. But their attraction is instant. His razor sharp mind, gentle attitude and love of family, life and friends make him the man Emma – product of a wealthy but unhappy marriage – wants to be with.
As the evening goes on, and Emma ruminates on their relationship and life before, during and after their marriage, we begin to understand that what happened to break them up was more than their difference in background and education, more even than the petty disagreements that can sour the strongest relationships, or the “ordinary hazards” of life that can be predicted and hopefully avoided.
Something terrible took place, and now Emma has lost everything – including all hope.
Powerfully told from her own perspective, her story will touch every nerve in your body. Sad, lonely and bitter though she is at the events that have ruined her life, she has the gift of insightful honesty, the ability to make the reader resonate with every word, thought and emotion she herself is experiencing.
Despite her unhappiness, she does not focus solely on herself. The people who surround her at the bar all have their own unhappy stories, which she shares with empathy and a degree of understanding. There’s Jimmy, who lost his sister to cancer, Cal, who’s bringing up his daughter Summer alone, Martin, who once had a promising medical career but is now a deep-in-debt gambler. Their stories are entwined, and they all drink together, yet they cannot relieve each other’s pain.
As the events of the evening unfold in tandem with Emma’s tragic story, you begin to wonder if she will ever find resolution. How is it that she can forgive others, but can’t forgive Lucas for whatever it is he has done, nor indeed forgive herself?
It’s heartbreaking stuff, but so movingly written, raw and honest and with flashes of humour. Author Anna Bruno has such a wonderful gift for description that you’ll feel you’re in The Final Final, listening to Cal and Martin argue, tasting the sharp beer, smelling the fake pine scent of the ladies’ lavatory. You’ll laugh and cry with the customers, and you’ll share the suspense and foreboding as matters there come to a head, just as Emma finally reaches the climax of in her recollections of her broken love story.
Ordinary Hazards is a heart-breaking story, but offers hope, too, for the people who inhabit it, not least Emma herself. She can never escape the past, but maybe this final evening spent at the Final Final will offer her a way forward into the future.
I could not put this book down, and remain haunted by its message of love, loss and redemption – it’s definitely one for the best-seller list.
Published by Scribner in hardback, RRP £14.99. Also available in ebook and Audible format.
About The Author
Anna Bruno is a writer and business communications instructor at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. Ordinary Hazards is her debut fiction novel. Follw her on Twitter @annabruno