Kelly Braffet on Shovel Ready
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie and Jack. Her writing has been published in the Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and in several anthologies, as well as on Salon.com. Being published on Salon is kind of the writing equivalent of a guest role on Law & Order, but hot damn, she'll take that. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College, and she currently lives in upstate New York. Although people from Buffalo laugh at her when she says that, so maybe she should more correctly claim that she lives in relatively-upstate New York. Look, it's upstate from Brooklyn, okay? She is married to the tall and immensely talented Owen King, who is also an author. He's dreamy.
You, reader: you’re like me. You love a good story. You love slipping into another world, feeling its reality swell under you and carry you off. And you’ve read it all, right? You’re up on and down with the latest genre-benders, the crime novels and the sci-fi and the cyber-thrillers. You know the first-date thrill of picking up an unread novel for the first time, that sweet frisson of hope. You know the hyperbolic jacket copy, the gorgeous cover. And you know the disappointment. The bitter, bitter disappointment. Nothing new under the sun? Ha. Sometimes, things out there feel downright mummified.
Weary traveler on the sun-burnt plains of fiction, I give you Shovel Ready.
It’s a neo-noir about a garbage-man-turned-hit-man. It’s also post-apocalyptic. Not, like, crazy-mohawk-guy, well-accessorized Mad Max apocalyptic: near-future apocalyptic. Entirely-too-plausible apocalyptic. Scary apocalyptic. It’s set in a New York City, where the cabs are still kind of running and the mayor is still holding press conferences, but everybody knows things are over. All the rich people have disappeared into a luxurious virtual reality. Not Spademan, though. Not our hero. Before things fell apart he worked in sanitation, and he’s still cleaning up other people’s messes. And, yeah, he’s got a few messes of his own, and, yeah, eventually he’s hired for a job that’s a little too complicated to sweep under the rug with the other dirt. But this is a novel of facades over facades. Those plot twists that you think you know—you don’t. Sternbergh’s prose is razor-sharp and heartfelt and brutal all at the same time, and he twists those facades inside and out and back onto themselves with origami precision.
So go ahead. Read that jacket copy. Admire that gorgeous cover.
I promise: it’s safe this time.