I’d been on the fence about whether to pick up Crash for quite a while, and then Singe came out. I read it first. What a fantastic book. They both are, actually, with quite a literary feel to them. Characters can and do change on a dime the way real people do, and the way these characters are screwed up feels real.
Short version: both are going on my favorites of the year pile.
The book’s about two paramedics. They sometimes get assigned together, sometimes not, and are trying to
Doc is a female colleague:
Taryn hated Doc like a reflex the first day she turned up for training, quilted Vera Bradley purse and Boston College diploma, but then one night last summer she single-handedly kept a crazy lady from stabbing Taryn in the jugular with a plastic fork in the food court at Lee Outlets, and ever since Taryn has been, like, weirdly fond of her.
What comes out slowly is how desperately poor Taryn Falvey’s family is, and how much that initial reaction to Doc is a reflexive dislike of people who didn’t have life as hard as Taryn did.
What also comes out is how poverty has affected her prior relationship—that and her mother is a major alcoholic. Taryn’s got this big secrecy around her home life going on, as well as feeling protective of her siblings that she’s essentially the functional parent for. She also has a complex about wanting to pull her financial weight in relationships, so she doesn’t want to go out for fancy meals she can’t afford—especially given that the house payments are getting increasingly behind.
Meanwhile, Nick is a widower, and he bought the home he’s now living in shortly before his late wife died suddenly of Huntington’s. The relationship with Taryn is his first serious relationship since his wife’s death.
Nick hesitates. I care about you, he wants to tell her. I think about you, you scare the shit out of me, you make me lighter than I’ve been since I can remember and I am always and perpetually waiting for the sound of the other shoe hitting the floor.
“I want to take you out,” is what he says.
For a second Falvey doesn’t say anything, like of all the responses she’d anticipated, that wasn’t one of them. Then she looks him in the eye for the first time since this morning. “Like—”
“For a burger, Falvey, I don’t know.” Nick huffs out a nervous laugh. He’s been thinking about it on and off for weeks, is the truth, an actual sit-down meal that doesn’t take place at his kitchen island. What he’d like is to take her out out—somewhere with a wine list, maybe, somewhere nice—but he gets the feeling she’d do a runner if he so much as suggested it. “First moves,” he supplies instead, like a challenge. He’s done playing it cool.
Taryn blinks. “Huh.” She flexes her knee, the muscles tightening around his crooked fingers in a move that may or may not be deliberate. “So like, I tell you what a horrible long-term girlfriend I am and your first impulse is to ask me on a date?”
“Pretty much,” he says eventually, shrugging. “Why, you don’t wanna go?”
Falvey frowns. “I didn’t say that,” she mutters, huffing like a teenager, and right then Nick knows he’s going to get his way. He forces himself not to react. They sit in silence for a moment longer, watching each other.
Falvey breaks first. “Okay,” she announces, rolling her eyes and turning the key in the ignition. “When?”
They’re negotiating with each others’ issues, and it’s awesomely realistic.
Also, I love this description of what being riding partners is like:
Riding together leaves you with the oddest, most-lopsided body of knowledge about a person, and though he knows Falvey’s tampon brand and her favorite foods, he’s got nothing on her family or her thought processes, what she’d wish for if a genie ever said boo. It makes for a strange brand of familiarity.
Addie and Eli both work at the same fire house. Eli’s been screwing around a lot since his wife left him, thus Addie doesn’t consider him a long-term possibility. But for now, she’s interested in something light and casual despite the fact that they aren’t supposed to be seeing each other.
It’s supposed to be casual, but with an arsonist on the loose, it can’t really be, especially given some of Eli’s odd reactions. Her father’s just retired from being fire chief. He…doesn’t talk about his family.
“Eli huffs out a breath. “Nothing,” he says sullenly. Addie waits. “It’s just when I was picking up Hester, my ex-wife, she—” He breaks off. Just when Addie thinks she’s about to hear another confession of the blonde-in-the-bar variety—just when she can feel her stomach plummeting—he switches tracks entirely. “Look, I had a brother.”
Addie keeps waiting, but nothing else comes out. “Okay. You had a brother?” The past tense is startling, sends her stomach back up and then down again. God, he was right about her. There’s still so much she doesn’t know. “Eli.”
“Yeah,” Eli says, rubbing distractedly at the back of his neck one more time. “And the anniversary’s today, so.”
“The anniversary of his death?” Addie asks. She wants to ask how old he was, the brother. She wants to ask how he died. She takes a springy Koosh ball off a shelf and picks at the strings, feeling awkward and out of her depth. “What was his name?” is where she starts.
“Will,” Eli says, no intonation to it at all. “His name was Will.”
And it’s quite the story.