Every once in a while, and sometimes its a long while, a writer reads a book voraciously for a few days in sessions that leave him or her breathless. After reading it there’s a feeling of profound loss, that somehow you could have that time again. You sit in your chair thinking about the feelings that masterpiece has evoked in you. This was my experience after finishing John Fowles ‘The Magus’. I also felt it at the end of Ralph Robert Moore’s ‘Father figure.’ While the reader part of my brain reveled in an ecstasy that formed a visceral connection with this time, a connection that will last the rest of my life, the writer part seriously considers placing his favourite pen in a box, never to be seen again, and selling his word-processor on e-bay. Get Father figure now. Log on to your favourite book store and place your order. Or, even better, if you can wait that long, visit your favourite local bookstore, preferably an Indy and order it through them. When it arrives, rip it out of its packaging or take it out of its bag and start reading it straight away.
I’m not going to say ‘it’s a real page-turner’ and besmirch it with such a hackneyed phrase. You probably will have to put it down at some stage because ‘Life happens’. Either you’ll have to go and powder your nose, or eat, or perhaps acknowledge that there’s someone else in the room. But as you wrench yourself out of the world Rob has created, you will feel regret and perhaps a little shame. But you’ll count the minutes until you can sit down again and indulge yourself with such a guilty pleasure.
The only content of the book that I will mention is that the two main characters are called Daryl and Sally. They live in a backwater Alaskan town named Lodgepole. Their hum-drum existence is changed irrevocably when Sam, a charismatic and mysterious man intrudes on their lives.
Things change. By the time I’d reached the third part I was reading it in shorter chunks. Why? Because there was a sense of doom descending and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out what happened to the main characters. Not because I was bored but because I cared for them too much. To see that doom unfold would be too harrowing – and I knew the author wasn’t afraid to pull the punches. How had they allowed themselves to get sucked in to this scenario anyway. Had they lost their minds? I found myself thinking back to earlier points in the story. Where was the tipping point? The time at which I could intervene and shout STOP to them, DON’T you see where this is leading?
Part-way through reading the last section I watched the film, Fight Club, written by another expert of manipulating the emotions, Chuck Palahniuk. It created similar emotions, the same desire to tell the character to resist the urge to continue down their chosen path. To grab them by the lapels and yell in their face Snap out of it! This has gone beyond ‘intriguing’, it’s too much.
I considered stopping reading at this point. Did I really want to pursue things to the end and witness what would probably be a heart crushing denouement? Then I would never know – and that held consequences as well. Maybe the author would take a right turn and allow Sally and Daryl a way out.
This stirring of the psyche can not be achieved by a second rate author
So, yes. Things had changed, but the writing remained vital, churning different emotions, pushing the boundaries and challenging the way you think about what constitutes a good story. I won’t tell you how my reading experience concluded other than to say I read the book to the end. I was affected. To the extent that I caught myself thinking about the characters at odd hours of the day, as if by reading the story I had to bare some responsibility for the fate of the characters. After all, if I hadn’t completed Father Figure the characters would remain safe in their unchanged state, before the finale occurred. By finishing the book I had a part to play in what happened.
Ralph Robert Moore yields great power in his dark pen. Power to ensure that your landscape of perception changes forever. But as a reader you hold power and agency too. So will you choose to read this book? If not, you may remain safe in your comfortable reading shell. But if you like fiction that turns your assumptions and perceptions on their head, go out and buy it.
Obtain your copy of FATHER FIGURE here