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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Timothy Gene Sojka's novel, 39, is a literary fiction story about Stephen Detals, a former professional baseball player who faces a range of existential struggles, including alcoholism, abandonment, and suicidal thoughts. As Stephen's 39th birthday approaches, he feels the weight of an ominous fate that has plagued his family for generations: his father and grandfather both committed suicide on the same day. The narrative covers eight days leading up to Stephen's birthday, during which he confronts his addiction and navigates a return to his former hometown in Southeast Texas. On this journey, he encounters Rose Petal Detals, the enigmatic matriarch of his family who is suspected, with some decent reasoning, to be an alleged murderess. Stephen's return to his hometown after twenty years away also prompts him to uncover the dark secrets that have long haunted his family.
Timothy Gene Sojka's 39 offers an authentic depiction of what I have personally seen someone I care about go through, at least as far as addiction goes, as Stephen struggles to find meaning and purpose amidst a tragic legacy, exploring the intricate interplay between familial trauma and addiction. Sojka's writing style is evocative and engaging, providing a compelling reflection on the human condition, with themes of mortality, destiny, and the complexity of personal relationships. Despite a slow start, the plot picks up the pace as Stephen's journey becomes more pressing and he begins to confront his addiction head-on. The characters are well-developed and realistic, adding to the gripping and sometimes chilling reading experience, and an occasional writing style that resembles a stream of consciousness. Overall, 39 is a novel that delves deep into the human psyche and the complexities of personal relationships, providing an intimate and emotional exploration of addiction, familial trauma, and the search for meaning. Very highly recommended.