My Sweet Saga
By Brett Sills
Synopsis (Via Goodreads): At nearly 30 years old,
Brandon is barely able to make it through life, much less enjoy it. He
is weeks away from what should be one of the happiest days of his life,
his wedding day to his fiancé, Clarissa, but his attention is
distracted when his estranged, erratic and oddly eccentric father
suddenly reappears with a bizarre demand: to accompany him to Stockholm,
Sweden, where they will meet a man who he claims will change their
Desperate for even a brief escape from his reality, Brandon
reluctantly goes with his father, ready for a disaster. But his life
changes completely the moment his eyes meet the mysterious Swedish man's
daughter, Saga. On a cobblestone street in the middle of Stockholm,
Brandon reawakens to life, though struggles to navigate the messy love
triangle with Saga and his fiancé, which includes multiple arrests,
hospital stays, terrorist bombs, acts of heroism and foolishness, family
secrets and even a bit of public nudity
My Sweet Saga is Brett Sills first novel, and I was thrilled when the publisher Admiral J Press asked me if I'd like a free copy to review. I mean, just take a look at the synopsis above, it sounds like the wacky crazy book I always enjoy! I actually struggled through the first 20-50 pages as I got used to the protagonist's voice. If I'm being completely honest I possibly would have put it down after the second chapter if it wasn't a review requested book, I just had some real trouble getting into the groove of it. However I'm glad I kept at it because once I got used to the dry and sarcastic sense of humour I found myself really enjoying it.
Brandon is like so many other people out there, deeply unsatisfied with his job, his family, his friends and his current relationship. An aspiring journalist, Brandon is stuck working for a television studio hunting down billboard space for their tasteless TV shows. While I've never found myself as apathetic or as unhappy as Brandon one think I sympathise is that fear of striking out in something you love, and then failing. As terrible as it sounds, if you never actually take a chance and try to become whatever your dream career/lifestyle etc is, you can always keep it as a dream. If you try and then fail at it, who knows where you can turn? However, I've always managed to turn that fear into motivation; Brandon on the other hand is crippled by it, and not only in his career. Brandon's engaged to a young publicist, and although their wedding is fast approaching, the spark has disappeared from their relationship. They're together, at least on his part, because it's easier than striking out and trying to make it on his own. Also, because Brandon met Clarissa relatively early in his move to LA (from New York) his life well and truly revolves around their routines and her friends, and he'd have to start from scratch if he were to end the relationship. On top of this is his strained relationship with his father. Though they were close when Brandon was younger, four years ago his father won the lottery and subsequently paid his wife (Brandon's mother) to leave and never return, alienated his son and has spent most of his time travelling the world.
So as you can see Brandon isn't exactly the happiest or most content guy. This is the Brandon you meet as the story begins, he's uncomfortable, unhappy, tense and unwilling to show any warmth. And it is this Brandon who is told by his father, who he hasn't seen in some time, that he is going to accompany the old man to Sweden. As I've mentioned, Brandon isn't in a particularly close relationship with his father, and more than anything, he can't forgive his father for sending his mother, the woman he always professed his love for, away. His father, as far as Brandon is concerned, is the perfect proof that money does change people. However, as much as he dislikes his father, the upcoming wedding and his dissatisfaction at work combined with the idea of a free trip to Sweden (not to mention the idea of living for once) is enough to convince him to go to the airport. It's here that his life changes forever.
In Sweden Brandon meets a girl with light-bulb hair, Saga. She is everything Brandon isn't. She's competitive, gregarious and spontaneous and she loves every little thing that she sees and experiences. Through their whirlwind three day romance Brandon learns to expect something from life again, and that it doesn't have to be something to just suffer through. The challenge, however, is to keep it up once back in LA, with his fiancé and undesirable job. Though the basic premise may sound like a few other books out there, My Sweet Saga handles it with humour and approaches it from a new and interesting angle. It isn't an easy change from unhappy to happy, his relationships don't magically fix themselves, and he doesn't magically find a cheque on the road which solves all his problems. It's a quirky and honest look at the way a man struggles to make some real changes in his life, sparked by an almost fairy-tale or dream-like encounter. I really enjoyed going through the journey with Brandon. Though I took a bit of time to get into it, it didn't take long until I sympathised with his fears and concerns, punched the air when things would look up for him, and felt dejected and dispirited when things looked like they were going to fall apart.
Without giving anything away, I just want to say that the ending is great. It doesn't end in the sunshine and rainbow way that many books like this do, it challenges that 'tradition' and delivers something far more honest and interesting. However more than anything else, the way Brett Sills ties up the relationship between father and son is phenomenal. Anything more I say will give it away, but I just want to say it was emotionally satisfying, and completely off the wall, not what I expected. All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book. The synopsis dragged me in and it delivered nothing that I expected. It was funnier, weirder, smarter and more emotionally driven than I could have imagined. I highly recommend it, but my recommendation comes with one caveat. There is a fair amount of swearing, detailed sex scenes, and some questionable remarks about race (which I discounted as the author being dry and sarcastic and over the top in a world obsessed with race- I hope I was right), however, if you've enjoyed other books I've rated highly I really don't think this is something that'll concern you!
My rating: 4.5/5