Thaddeus Rutkowski’s newest novel, Haywire, published by Starcherone Books, was published in December. The author, who has gained a loyal following over the years, has outdone himself. In this, his third novel, Rutkowski has woven together 49 flash stories narrated by the son of a Polish-American father and a Chinese mother.
The focus of Haywire is the narrator’s dealings with the people and world around him, and how he comes not only to get along with, but also love those closest to him. This is an engrossing book that doesn’t skip a beat. After reading the first few stories, I put the book down, wondering if the author could keep up his frantic, page turning pace. After consuming the rest of the novel, in one sitting, I answered my own question.
Rutkowski’s prose, which is mostly lean and dense, doesn’t impede the emotional weight of Haywire. In many ways, it brings the emotions to light. The book is full of touchingly honest moments, but sprinkled throughout, are incredibly funny scenes that produced fits of laughter, forcing me to put it down.
Despite the somewhat somber mood Rutkowski’s writing produces, by the end, a message of hope and positivity shines through. Many coming-of-age stories fall short, with the protagonist’s coming off as nothing more than a comical fractured shell of a real person. In contrast, Rutkowski embraces the narrator’s faults and accentuates them in an artful way, creating a real person by means of his masterful storytelling ability.
This novel will no doubt appeal to Rutkowski’s most hardcore fans, but I suspect that Haywire is his most accessible work yet, thus allowing him an even wider audience than his past books garnered. I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly what made this book work for me other than my overwhelming connection with the narrator from the get go. Rutkowski has taken a simple story and layered it with evocative emotions, strange characters, and quirky fetishes, and baked it to just the right temperature to create something truly unique in the literary world today: a highly original work that isn’t original simply for originality’s sake.
I would highly recommend this book as a great launching pad for Rutkowski fans as well as those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading his previous work.