I crave fiction. A good novel makes an internal connection with me and gives me characters I care about. A good novel gives me phrases or single words so delightful that I smile on the spot. A good novel gives me a story I can live in and live through. Safe satisfies this craving.
Jill Case Brown textures this story with details, then brings those details back around in a way that anchors the characters while giving the story momentum. (Wait till you see the different ways “WD-40” comes up.) She builds a suspense around the characters that makes me want to skip to the end and see how these people and their relationships turn out. But at the same time, a delightful phrase makes me want to linger on a page and read that part again.
The relationships in Safe draw from me a depth of response that carries over to my own relationships. They remind me to do the hard work of leaning into instead of backing away from relational conflict (“Hearing the first stir in his voice, I braced myself. . . . I wanted to back away from it. Instead, I made myself go over and sit on the sofa across from him.”). They remind me to listen (“Fork in hand, she considered. One of the things I liked about my mom was how seriously she took what other people asked or said.”). They remind me of myself (“Then, one after another, in a sort of mental stutter, the details came clear.”). The person I was at page one was not the person I grew into by the last page.
Safe takes me into an unknown wilderness—then invites me to see if there might be some way to navigate through the desert to find an oasis or two. Author Flannery O’Connor said, “Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t write fiction.” The book Safe isn’t afraid to get dusty, but it shows the reader how beauty can come from ashes and hope can be found in the wilderness.