The novel opens with a bullfight and the charismatic Jackdaw, who quickly catches the attention of Maggie, sister to bartender CJ and smart-but-socially awkward Tibs. Although Jackdaw manages to escape the fate of the circus clown who is gored by the bull in the ring, his desire to become a writer at the expense of his new wife and child present him with an altogether different but equally dangerous set of personally vexing challenges. CJ is hardly having an easy time of it either, as she begins to explore heretofore unknown dimensions of herself. Meanwhile, Tibs must balance his friendship with Jackdaw with the realities of loyalty and personal ambition.
Linse’s gift for fiction lies in her seemingly offhand but richly engaging observations. CJ’s conception of Loveland as both a myth (people love to send Valentine’s Day cards for the postmark) and a crassly disappointing burden are an exquisite mix of hilarity and sadness. “Loveland is an old drunk, a regular…The Loveland I know would be waiting out front sitting on the curb when the bar opens at seven in the morning.” Linse chooses to periodically shift her narrative POV, which allows us to inhabit each character fully while making intriguing structural leaps in the story. The often-bewildering search for self is elegantly encapsulated by the vast scenic spaces of Wyoming and Colorado in which the characters fish, drink, and attempt to connect with both themselves and each other.
DEEP DOWN THINGS ultimately chooses to focus on the emotional growth of the characters instead of attempting to radically innovate the novelistic form. However, Linse makes each journey relatable and emotionally textured while occasionally injecting her signature literary observations.
Reviewed by Julia Lai for IndieReader.