Nothing could have prepared Brennan Glover for the car crash that claimed the lives of his wife and six-year-old daughter. Stricken with grief, the only things that get him through each day are breaking his sobriety and clinging to Fender—the family dog and the sole survivor of the crash.
Desperate to distance Brennan from tragedy, his two closest friends take him on the cross-country road trip they had always talked about. But what begins as an effort to mend his broken heart ends up unraveling a secret that changes everything he thought he knew about his family. Can a journey of six thousand miles lead Brennan to acceptance and new beginnings?
From finding the good in an often cruel world to learning to say goodbye to those we love most, this sophomore release from author Brent Jones is sure to leave readers longing for home, wherever that may be.
*Definitely Contains Spoilers*
Okay. So as a huge animal lover, going into this book I told myself that if the dog (Fender) died, then I don't know if I can finish it. I was wrong. Fender does die; I did finish the book. But that's thanks to Brent Jones' writing technique. Fender, the novel, is about a man who has lost everything except his beloved pet and struggles to find a way to want to keep living when his friends take him on a cross-country road trip to help him find his new beginning.
At the beginning of the novel, Brennan is a complete mess, and understandably so. His wife and daughter have just died in a car accident, an accident in which Fender, the family dog, survived. Brennan is wallowing in depression, an abundance of alcohol, and a cloud of cigarette smoke with no will to do anything. This immediately creates a connection with readers both sympathetically and empathetically. And it's when hope starts to creep into Brennen's inebriated mind that readers really push for him to find a way past this.
Brennan is written as a very human, realistic character. He has positive and negative qualities that make him seem like an everyman type of character. These qualities are also gender neutral. I can definitely see these characteristics popping up in any person, not just men, and therefore I think the connection between readers and Brennan expands a little more. Brennan suffers from loss and the unknown. He turns to alcohol for relief and escape from reality. He's also a very caring human being. He's a dog lover who saved a stray. He's a parent who loved his child more than words. And he's reached a point where his life has become unrecognizable because he's experienced something that anyone could experience at any time: the loss of something he loved. This not only connects him to readers, but he sort of becomes representative of what readers could become. The path that we all pray our lives don't take. And that makes this book powerful, relatable, understandable, and scary.
The plot of Fender revolves around the cross-country road trip. I agree with Jones when he says, if you've never driven across the country, you should do it. I have, a couple times. And it's different each time. It does seem to change your perspective a little bit and brings out what's important to you. It's also a great experience. However, Brennan's journey is about finding a way to start over with those he has left in his life: his two best friends and his dog. Yet, when his dog starts showing signs of being sick, the road trip shifts to a story about moving forward even when the past threatens to swallow you whole. I think readers who choose to pick up this book will gain a sense of inspiration and hope from Jones' story, but it wasn't exactly an easy read. It was a hard book to put down after I started it though. There's a sense of hope within the tragedy that kept me turning pages and I think a lot of readers will see that hope and gain a little something from the story.
Rating: 4/5 Cups
Bonus: The author, Brent Jones, did actually take the road trip he writes about. He shared his photo experience on Twitter and you can view it here: Brent Jones Website!