Joe Graber’s ALL GOOD QUESTS is a layered novel that has moments of beautiful clarity and poignant prose. The opening chapter is well-written and immediately intriguing. The character of Fitzsimmons, although only mentioned in the first few pages, is wonderfully understated. The novel diverges into two main narratives–journalist Brogan Quint’s search for billionaire John Breckon in the wilds of Alaska and Quint’s time in Galloway, Virginia, following his coverage of an adventure race for the magazine for which he works and where he finds himself quickly absorbed into the community and the life of widow Abby Kincaid and her young son Finn (‘Fon’). Although the Alaskan narrative is ahead of the Galloway thread, they both move toward each other and Quint’s authorial voice is quickly established. However, the non-linear structure takes a few chapters to knit together into a nicely readable pattern.
Throughout, the novel is written from Brogan’s perspective. He is a complex individual with lingering damage. Consequently, there is a brooding introspection to his voice which fits the narrative, although in some parts there is too much isolation in his characterization. His memories and reminiscences that weave through both areas of the story provide readers with a few surprises and some, if not all, of the reasons behind the obsessive search for John Breckon–a quest that becomes all-consuming and clearly owes much to the one Brogan’s mother designed for him and his two siblings.
Out of the two storylines, Brogan’s solitary time in the Alaskan wilderness is the strongest and provides some profound writing that, despite musing on fairly cerebral themes, reads gently with a strangely comforting tone. The terrain; dense, unforgiving and complicated is impressively geographically detailed and mirrors Brogan’s inner self. Toward the end of his time searching for Breckon, the story becomes incredibly suspenseful and the action gathers pace which is not reflected in the oddly abrupt ending. Although Brogan may feel he has achieved a resolution of sorts and a level of much-needed personal absolution, this does not translate to the reader and they are left requiring something more tangible.
There are a number of threads in ALL GOOD QUESTS which remain slightly out of focus and it could be argued they echo the elusive, enigmatic nature of John Breckon. This slightly nebulous quality also permeates his evolving relationship with Abby, which seems occasionally lack-luster. The Galloway characters of Robert Berkebie and Farzam Faza are more solidly portrayed and their ‘rivalry’ is written with understanding and humor.
ALL GOOD QUESTS is a considered, contemplative and interesting work of literary fiction that is well worth a read for fans of the genre.
~Rose Auburn for IndieReader