“Gravity” by R.M. Drake (Review)

{ my rating: ★★★ }

Gravity is Robert M. Drake’s debut fictional novel. It follows Wes, Owen, and Harper, a trio of inseparable friends, as they weather all the triumphs and tragedies of growing up together…that is until the ultimate tragedy sends the survivors reeling and oh so far from what and where they used to be.

For those that are sensitive to spoilers, my main opinion is that the prose makes an irksome main character a little easier to bear, and the ending makes the overt sweetness of some scenes and convenient plot points thin out enough to help it retain the realisticness an average literary fiction reader such as myself expects.

What I Liked:

The prose— When I flipped over to the first page of the novel and read the first paragraph, book tingles shot through my fingers. It was far above what I expected Mr. Drake was going to deliver. It seemed Wes was going to tell me a story, as if I were a friend just across the coffee table; I was sucked right in.

The themes— My criticism for Mr. Drake’s work in particular to his short stories in Beautiful and Damned was that his characters had too much wanderlust to be believable, which therefore cheapened their resolutions. Here, he went to great depths to develop why Wes as the main character and narrator was running, even though some of her lines of explication were a bit too dramatic. The focus on holding tight to family and friends throughout, even through memory, was touching to see develop as well.

The first quarter of the novel— The stars and all aligned with the first quarter. The pacing, narration, characters, tone, prose, style, all were so meticulously controlled and managed that my expectations were blown out of the water. The second quarter and onwards were enjoyable but did not match up to the quality of the first 75 pages or so.

The closing chapters— They were moving chapters that did what I wanted them to do for each character. Mr. Drake subverted the cliches I thought he was going to dive into by choosing to create a human ending, in which not everything is tied together in a neat little bow.

What I Disliked:

Harper— She is unlikeable, unpleasant, and unreliable. Her entrance into the novel changed the trajectory of the well established and loveable friendship between Wes and Owen while also changing the focus of the novel. The second quarter of the novel and forward worked itself into a fever so it could somehow make Harper the special chord in their friendship trio, but it failed in proving her to be worthy of being a part of it in the first place. What could have been a beautiful coming-of-age novel about Owen and Wes veered into a messy, melodrama-pocked story where the “enigmatic” character is nothing more than a grey caricature in comparison to her friends.

One particular scene— In which a man walks up to Wes at a night beach party and says something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, but I just wanted to tell you that you’re beautiful,” which kickstarts one of the most unnecessary conflicts to a steady storyline that I have ever come across in both cinema and novels. If I wanted saccharine scenes like that, I would be reaching for a Sparks novel or a Lifetime movie.

The Insecure Mother Trope— I can’t dive further into this because this revelation is a significant point to the plot and a few characters, but this trope was a weak one to use to explain what should have been a heavier revelation about one family’s conflicts and the consequences it wrought.

Repetitive Narration— Wes is the narrator, and she does well with balancing the past and present timelines in order to keep the story engaging. However, Gravity feels about a hundred pages too long because as the chapters progress, she repeats what we already witnessed or what we already know. For example, there are three instances where Harper falls into depression yet each time Wes lists all the proof that Harper had fallen into it as if we had not seen Harper close up before. No depression is worse than the others, but she makes it come across as if it was.

Conclusion:

Overall, Gravity was a satisfying read because I had one hope: that Mr. Drake would publish a novel to exceed my expectations, and Gravity did deliver. When I look back to how many times a paragraph or a phrase wowed me, I can see myself reaching for his debut again, but I cannot say I will be keen on passing the first hundred pages. In my perfect world this novel would have been Wes and Owen’s story, but I respect the fact that Mr. Drake saw Harper as a part of their story too. There are moments where the book drags, but watching Wes and Owen come back into their own in the bittersweet resolution is worth the trudging and cringing it sometimes takes.

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