Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Brand New Human Being’
October 24, 2013
We read books to escape life, to entertain ourselves, and to forget our own foibles and follies. Yet this book did not let me escape. The first-person narration by Logan, as a parent, as a son and as a human being, shares intimately how life is for him — and is immediately relatable to life outside of the book. He's ordinary and has no super-human ability. He's muddling along, after having put his graduate dissertation on hold for a few years, initially to deal with a surprise baby and then, a sick father.
Where the book begins, Logan Augustus Pyle is a father of a 4-year-old who is regressing to sucking his thumb, wearing diapers, and Logan himself is reeling from the loss of his father. An astute reader may even pick up on how Logan is regressing, too, perhaps in his manner of grieving. It doesn't help that the father he lost was a loving man with a big personality, a successful practice fighting for the underdogs, and a young wife, Logan's teenage crush.
Logan is also dealing with a wife who seems more removed; a business partner and best friend who wants to sell out the business; and his late father's partner at the law firm who has his own expectations. Something has to give.
Surely Emily Miller thought deeply about her choice of first-person narration. Thus, it is no accident that the book entertains quietly, having tied the narrative and perspective to Logan. There is neither objectivity nor jokes — not without also the self-consciousness of the narrator. Any humor is contextual, or feels accidental. The observations are free-ranging and gritty, like watching a reality show punctuated with one participant's thoughts. We watch with mild schadenfreude.
This book can feel like a long preamble to a brief sojourn to growth. But it's a dose of reality. Getting away is perhaps best applicable to the readers here. Logan's mistakes and misapprehensions make us aware of our own thoughts. After reading "Brand New Human Being," I had a voice in my head narrating my life, how I was talking to people, and giving me an eerie sense of how I was as a character. Perhaps that's why it is worth reading Miller's novel. It makes you introverted and come away thinking.
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