Some say there can be no life-altering event more traumatic than the loss of a child. I can attest to such truth. My mother suffered through the loss when I was around seven years old. Luckily, my parents’ marriage didn’t follow suit after my younger brother, John, died. However, in the majority of cases, marriages sadly end in divorce after such heartache is endured.
For those who stay together and attempt to pick up the pieces, it’s still a rocky road to recovery, which often leads to alienation and troubled times. Within a well thought-out narrative, author Joseph Alexander explores such a predicament in his debut novel, “Faded Acts of Love.” He calls into question how a once-happy couple strive to rekindle their relationship during the darkest of times. Contained within, the main character, Peter, meets a beauty, Adrienne, and his once pessimistic and chauvinistic views toward women evaporate. After their marriage, all seems ideal. That is until tragedy strikes and their two-year-old son, Nicholas, falls to his death from the balcony of their Manhattan apartment. Now, their perception of happiness shatters likes a broken mirror.
As grief takes over, they hope to regain all they have lost and aim to have another child. Fourteen months after Nicholas’ white casket is lowered, Adrienne gives birth to a daughter, Penny. With a disillusioned new beginning just beyond the horizon for the family, they move to Westchester, and Peter moves up the corporate ladder at his high-status advertising agency. Though, when Peter is sent on assignment to London, his womanizing ways reappear in full force and he makes a fateful decision that leads to the ultimate sacrifice. Without giving away the ending (that which the author surprised himself with), “Faded Acts of Love” is a love-hate story that translates across two continents, intertwines and dissects a multitude of relationships.
“I worked in advertising for 20 years,” Alexander explained last week. “The impetus of this story spanned a 15-year period from a series of unrelated events, beginning during [my] time working on 5th Avenue in New York City. It melded together traveling with my family to Tuscany and finally the death of my cousin’s infant within our family, [which] really shook me up. All of it came together and planted the seed for the story in the novel.”
Without dwelling on death and circumstance that would otherwise turn a reader off, Alexander focuses on the healing aspects and redemption of a good man flawed by circumstances too great for him to handle. He asks readers to consider how one family man can redeem himself and salvage his family after the web he has weaved has spun desperately out of control. A flawed hero, Peter can appropriately be labeled a cad, and Alexander brings to the page a protagonist with raw will to survive. The story is a testament to show what many in a marriage take for granted.
One notable complaint: Some readers claim his use of descriptive phrases too complicated. He utilizes $20 words when a $5 one will suffice. In my opinion, the art of the word is in the eye of the reader.
“I tried to make my characters quirky. I don’t like perfect characters,” Alexander responded. We laughed over our mutual dislike for another Southern author, Nicholas Sparks. “[Nicholas Sparks] is an example of why I chose to utilize phraseology in the manner I do. My literary phrasing goes beyond the usual expectation of what someone may say. I try to say things in a way that’s transformative—not dull or boring. I don’t like trite language. I’m a believer in using creative language, especially in long form. It just depends on what you’re looking for in literature. Readers expect more than just storytelling. You need to add a little sparkle to your writing. It shows the author is thinking and being inventive. Language gets me excited.”
Armed with the die-hard belief that characters need to not only have flaws but interesting ones to represent the core of anxiety, Alexander molds their personalities and characteristics cleverly. Alexander uses declarative sentences and first-person narrative through and through. The time and effort placed into every nuance is undeniable. He goes against the popular saying, “Keep it simple, stupid.” By doing so he created a new spectrum of rules for his own style of writing.
“Reading should be about enjoying stories and not having to claw your way through an intricate plot with a lot of unnecessary description,” Alexander urged. “In the end there should be a revelation of some moral truth about life. Stories should be about our lives and about who we are as people. Everyone has values, opinions and a sense of right or wrong. I want readers to enjoy the time they spend with the author. While I’m at my computer writing I’m always sitting and thinking, How will the reader respond to this? I never want to lose sight of that.”
Next, among numerous short stories, Alexander’s working on a non-fiction travel narrative based on his family’s time in Tuscany. Follow him at http://fadedactsoflove.wordpress.com.