‘The Cousins’ – Fact-Based Fiction at its Best

The Cousins - book coverA suave young businessman who made his fortune in England, and who is very much a product of his times, wanders into a small Nebraska town, that for all practical purposes is a place outside of time.  In small towns people gossip, and one is often a prisoner of their small-mindedness.  They don’t cotton to big city folks.  Never mind their own crippling flaws and good old boy connections that smack of corruption on par with anything that could go on in a big city.  In this one respect, they truly are contemporary and timeless both.

The question quickly becomes, can the larger than life personality of our hero elevate a sorry lot of characters who just refuse to be enlightened or reformed, even if the promise he brings is a renewed economic vitality to a long depressed area?  Or has a man who has made millions easier than most people find breathing by selling people on things they initially wanted no part of finally met his match?

For whatever else this story is, I was fascinated by just what leaders, visionaries and mavericks go through to bring change and breathe life into a moribund world.  On the one hand is their irrepressible energy and determination to make the world a better place, and aptitudes for doing just that which would make smarter and saner men than I blush.  Don’t fool yourself, this book is a primer on not just how to change the world, but how to change yourself in order to continually rise to impossible challenges.  Anyone who has ever tried to make even a small change in their work and personal life will know just what I mean about facing impossible challenges.  Far less what these Steve Jobs types go through.  What makes the whole thing so captivating is the business savvy of the author, who doesn’t skimp on the small print undergirding the genius of change-makers, along with his keen feel for human psychology.  These irascible, incorrigible characters are vividly portrayed as are the inner workings of their minds that would likely have Sigmund Freud throwing in the towel, and Buddha running for the door before committing to actually saving these people from themselves.  For all the smooth talk our salesman hero possesses, you wonder if there are enough bright, credible, rational arguments in the world, enough rhetoric, and spin-doctoring, catered just to getting around these entrenched and fortified psychologies constructed like medieval castles of old, to ever knock the fortifications down.

But our hero doesn’t just have the devil in others he’s facing off against, and their small-minded determination to squeeze the life out of anyone who would dare to challenge their vested power interests; he’s got his own inner demons to contend with.  Here is where the story gets dicey.  What draws him into the small town in the first place is an accident; he nearly runs over a seventeen year old college student.  In his determination to make things right with the boy, he finds out about his financial crisis at school, and realizes he can use his business savvy to come to the teen’s aid.  As it turns out, he’s not looking to throw money at the kid, but to turn him into a savvy businessman himself.  When he starts to examine his own motives, he realizes they extend beyond mere philanthropy.  But what drives them exactly?  Is it the fact that for all the money he’s made, he’s yet to make an impact on the world of any true value?  Has yet to connect with people in any meaningful way?  He’s failed at relationships and love and the personal dimension of life, and reaching out to Jesse, the boy he nearly ran over, is a chance to change all of that.  But getting in close with people is a messy proposition as he’s about to find out.  The townspeople immediately want to know more about why someone with no connection to the boy or the town could suddenly take them both on as projects.  Add to the fact that the boy is being courted by the local crime lords to sell his body for prostitution to pay his school bills, and it isn’t long before the town is wondering if that’s what’s behind the relationship between the businessman and the college student.  When our hero searches his soul, he finds his own motivations are unclear to him, and even he starts to wonder if there is more to his attraction to Jesse than he’s willing to admit.

With his own possibly dark motivations surfacing, our businessman hero finds that he’s fighting a devil on two fronts.  If he expects to win either match, it will take more than business smarts or even political savvy for knowing how to get around people; it will take character.   Does he have enough to see him through?  Can he become the man he hopes to be at the same time he’s asking the same of Jesse and the ensemble cast populating this small town?  Or will he fumble like Hamlet, Romeo, and Othello, speaking of another writer who was also fond of bringing larger than life characters to their knees?  And that leads me to my next point; this isn’t just great writing, there’s a complexity and depth here that forces this fiction into the literary realm.  It is not your standard formula-fiction page turner meant to thread its way to the bestseller list in record time.  As such, it may take a little more patience, but the rewards promise to be well worth it, even if “literary” really isn’t your thing.

And for those looking for insights into the mentalities of the people who created the global economic meltdown, look no further.  Not only will their psychologies be painfully revealed, but their economic machinations and backroom antics as well.  Perhaps I should have led with this observation, since, for those who love historical or fact-based fiction, this book is an eye catcher even in a pile of gems.

Note: the title is currently available only on wattpad, and is undergoing minor copy-editing and other revisions.  The author expects to have the first book in the series available on amazon soon, providing he can figure out where to make the first cut.  So for those who jump in early, there’s a chance of glimpsing a good chunk of what will ultimately become book two as well.