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Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sills

my sweet saga brett sills Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sills

What would you do if your estranged, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, Powerball jackpot-winning father, the man who told you that youd never see a cent of his $350 million dollars, the man who dumped your mother in front of a crowd of hundreds by tossing her a $20 million cheque and telling her to bugger off, suddenly invited you to dinner after four years of radio silence?

And not just any dinner. A dinner in Sweden. A dinner in Sweden where youd have to convince a high-up diplomat that you were a NASA rocket scientist.

If you were Brandon, a thirty-ish no one with a severe allergy to coriander, with a fiance who spends her every waking moment matching tablecloths to serviettes and organising seating charts, with future in-laws straight out of the Triads (and one with Seinfeld-esqu man-hands no less), with a job pretending to sell ad space for a minor television network whose star show is the ultra-classy Honey Buns (marketed using a picture of said buns), and with a best friend whose most meaningful conversations revolved around toddler toilet trainingwell, youd probably go for it.

Desperate from respite from Clarissa, the woman who became his fiance not through love but rather after a misunderstanding about an heirloom ring and some blokey (Brandons that is, not Clarissas) capitulation of singledom in exchange for the promise of kinky sex, and rather unnerved by the fact that theres a vigilante Honey Buns'bomber hanging around the joint, Brandon agrees to fly to Stockholm and test his knowledge of quantum mechanics (this knowledge, by the way, starts and ends at Stargate).

After a wonky start involving having to actually talk to his father, a boorish chap doing his best to burn through a sum of cash equivalent in size to the GDP of one of Australias larger states and who delights in testing the patience of the PC police, Brandons luck seems to turn around: he looks up from his pile of Swedish meatballs and surstromming to see a blonde beautythe sweet Saga of the books title.

If Brandons the name, then escapisms the game, and while Clarissa wears out her dainty fingers sending text message after text message demanding to know Brandons whereabouts, Brandon and Saga indulge in a three-day romp comprising shenanigans such as boating in a fountain and riding Segways through shopping centres (while wearing Sumo outfits no less). But when its time to return home, Brandons faced with the choice of breaking things off with Clarissa in favour of a fresh start with Saga, or simply continuing along as things areand Brandon, being as defeatist and non-confrontational as it gets, opts for the latter. Of course, things have a way of becoming complicated, and Sagas name is rather portentous

My Sweet Saga'is a frenetic, crazed, indulgent romp that recalls Chuck Palahniuk, Steve Hely, Lee Henshaw, and all those other kooky blokey types that make this genreif none of these authors self-censored. Sills writes in an almost painfully honest manner, and at times this results in transcendant reading, and at others in the readers desire for him to make friends with the backspace button.

The prose is all spurts and madness: it feels as though its primed with stimulants, with weird anecdotes and odd descriptions riffing together and ricocheting off each other in ways that shouldnt work, but for the most part do, although there is some unevenness in voice and tone from time to time, with angry ranty snark suddenly turning to maudlin melancholy with nary a conjunction in between.

The characters, though all completely, horribly bizarre are so far off the normal scale that its all too easy to believe that these sorts of people exist. The book is set in LA, after all.'The exception to this is Brandon, a painful and pathetic character whose default setting is quiet resignationsomething that marks him out in a book where everyone else is larger than life. For him to take a stand against anyone is utterly out of character, and as a result he is simply drop-kicked along until things spiral so far out of control that something has to give. It can be cringeworthy to watch at times, and one does feel slightly voyeuristic reading this.

Though virtually every subset of humanity gets a working over under Brandons critical eye, I did find myself disconcerted by the recurring misogyny that runs through the novel. I cant think of one female character who is portrayed in a positive light, and the emphasis on women as money-grubbing, almost exclusively sexual beings is hard to ignorethough I set aside my qualms for most of the book, the scene with Brandons mother at the end was particularly problematic for me, particularly given how it is used in many ways to justify the actions of Brandons father.

In all, though, its promising debut novel, and Sills willingness to let it all hang out makes for some sometimes confronting, sometimes enlightening reading. I admit to the odd chortle at a particularly apt pop culture reference and at nodding along at some of the oh-so-true observations Brandon makes as he watches his life fall apart around him.

Some extra polishing could have been done in the proofing side of things, and the first two chapters are a bit of a muddle that need to be fought through before the book gets back on the straight and narrow (or as close as a book like this will ever get to being on the straight and narrow), but other than that and the slightly indulgent ending, its pretty solid stuff. Try itbut be warned that youll probably be offended.

Rating: star Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sillsstar Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sillsstar Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sillshalfstar Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sillsblankstar Book Review: My Sweet Saga by Brett Sills (very good)

Support Read in a Single Sitting by purchasing'My Sweet Saga'from

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With thanks to Admiral J Press for the review copy

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