I was sent the original self-published version, so all my comments below refer to that. Elm Books have recently acquired and are re-issuing Figures on a Beach, but told me the changes are just cosmetic (new cover and reformatting).
This is a short, semi-autobiographical novella about John Jones, a man waiting out the winter living in a van on a beach in Texas. It’s about trying to work life out, the people he meets on the beach, mental health, and connecting.
Not all of the characters were wholly three-dimensional, but John felt very real. His mental health issues are there, complex, and a big part of what’s happening, but it’s not everything about him and what’s happening, or the most important thing. I also liked that it didn’t have a neat ending. Some messy stories need messy endings, and the resolution of FOAB feels like it’s pitched just right between satisfying and messy enough to suit the story.
I did have a few problems with the writing. Some of it is overwritten, especially the prologue, and I felt an urge to edit a few clunky sentences and bits of dialogue. I also found that the single chapter from Cathy’s perspective was in too similar a voice to the others from John’s perspective. There were a few typos which I always find distracting (mainly homophones like ‘waste’ instead of ‘waist’, and ‘loser’ was consistently spelt ‘looser’). But, as this was the self-published version, some of this may have been addressed by Elm.
A good, short read about a life lived on the margins.
I was sent a free copy of Figure on a Beach in exchange for an honest review.