a novel by
ISBN: 978-1-59948-968-1, 228 pages, $17.95 (+ shipping)
Release Date: September 5, 2023
The Advance Discount on this title has expired. Those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $22/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001.
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Jeremy Broyles is an Arizona native, originally from the Cottonwood-Jerome-Sedona high desert. He earned his B.A. from Doane College, now University, his M.A. from Northern Arizona University, and his MFA from Wichita State University. His stories have appeared in The MacGuffin, Santa Clara Review, Rock and a Hard Place Magazine, Pigeon Review, Pembroke Magazine, Red Rock Review, Olney Magazine, Suburbia Journal, and Reckon Review amongst many others. Flat Water is his first novel. He is an aging rider of bicycles, a talentless surfer of waves, and a happily mediocre player of guitars.
Jeremy Broyles’ Flat Water will rock you in oceanic waves, both literal and emotional, waves built on powerful sentences, like this: “Where moving water meets planted land, there trades a violent negotiation counted in broken, pulverized rocks.” Such sentences carry you into the heart of a story about love, loss and grief. From the riptide of grief, Broyles doesn’t flinch. Flat Water gives us a clear-eyed look at what it means to suffer great pain, to navigate the murky waters of self-blame, and, ultimately, to find the possibility of self-forgiveness in grief’s wake. ~Ann Cummins
On a road trip to Flat Water, the home he fled years before, Monty Marinnis must confront the complex and painful loss that drove him away and now demands his return: family. Called back to California for his sister’s wedding, Monty’s journey from the Midwest to the California Coast is also a journey through memory, one complicated by the presence of his adoring, but increasingly frustrated wife Charlotte, from whom Monty has concealed the horrifying details of his family’s fracture and how he remains haunted by what he witnessed as a teenager. The Marinnis lost their eldest son in a shocking attack, while Monty watched, helpless. Since that day, he has been obsessed with finding an answer to a question that has none: why do bad things happen to some people but not others? Why were the Marinnis selected to suffer? In Flat Water, Monty will be confronted by brutal truths that rise like sharks from the depths. Faced with such realities, Monty will have to choose between acceptance and self-destruction. Jeremy Broyles’s Flat Water is a sensorial and emotionally rich exploration of guilt, shame, the burden of secrets, and the possibility of redemption. ~Jenny Irish, Author of I Am Faithful
Flat Water is an honest and empathetic depiction of grief. When Monty loses his brother to a shark attack, he abandons California, his family, and his great love – surfing – for Nebraska; but he can’t outrun his past, his pain, or the sharks. Propelled by the energy of Broyles wit and sparkling prose, Monty’s story, like the waves he used to chase, is equal parts surprising and inevitable, brilliant and heartbreaking. ~Meagan Lucas, author of Songbirds and Stray Dogs
The sunny, salted air swirls while sets of waves, pregnant with the energy of the tidal world, tumble to the beach where they wash out in bubbled froth. The sky above is a righteous blue mirroring the sacrosanct water below. It is July, and the top layer of sand heats to a simmering crust, but the wind sliding off from the churning Pacific tempers the day.
The surf is ideal.
Monty waits on the wave that only now is a bulging swell twitching under the surface like a flexing muscle sliding beneath oiled skin. Even at fourteen-years old, he can feel the shape of the water and what it will become. The swell builds. There comes a gentle pull of suction like a quick gasp of air before a held breath. Monty turns and paddles the board forward with four sharp strokes, and the swell—at last grown too big—catches and trips forward. Monty, with a fluid, blurring grace born of faultless instinct, stands atop his board right in the pocket of a curling, mythic wave that could make converts of the godless and heathens of the devout.
That is surfing for him. Epiphanius. Those rushing, electric moments when everything loses its grip on him, and he is the truest version of himself sliding across the ocean like a skipped stone. But it goes wrong all at once. Just as Monty tucks in and carves his weightless, winding wake through the water, a tourist with his scuffed rental board tries to catch the same wave even though it’s far too gone. Monty jumps, and, for a moment, he believes himself a spontaneous evolutionary miracle breeching from the depths to sprout functional gills on his neckline and a distinct dorsal fin bursting through his wet suit on his back. Time, however, runs out, and evolution winds backwards as he, just an air-breathing mammal, plunges into the chaos of the breaking wave. Underneath, he tumbles at the whimsy of the water and washes ashore like so much flotsam spat from the sea.
Monty wipes the salt from his eyes and blows it from his nostrils as he gathers his board under his arm. He finds the tourist staggering through the shallows—his own unleashed board now beached.
“I suppose that one was my fault then, right?” Monty says to the man whose ill-fitting red trunks appear pinned in place by his swollen belly lapping over the drawstrings at the front.
“What’s that?” he asks as the remnants of a spent wave catch him at the back of the thighs and jolt him forward a step.
“Didn’t you see I was already on that wave? You didn’t, did you? You weren’t even looking.”
“Oh, sorry about that. I’m still pretty new to this.”
“Then here’s some free advice. Pay attention and stay out of the way. If you can’t handle that, you’re probably better off building sand castles with your fat kids.”
“Excuse me? Hey, I’m talking to you.”
But Monty walks away without acknowledging any of the man’s words, and the tourist with the bulging belly has his voice wiped out by the staccato screams of seagulls and the splash of the surging sea.
“That was a good wave,” Max says as Monty drops into the sand at his side. “So good, in fact, that Ohio wanted in on it too.”
“Ohio?” Monty asks.
“You know the tourist types, Monty,” his older brother says. “I can’t prove he’s from Ohio, but he just looks like he is. Don’t you think?” They share a squinting smile in the insistent July sunlight. “Speaking of which,” Max says. He lounges prone in the sand braced on bent elbows, and he gestures with a quick tick of his head toward the tourist in red trunks standing over them.
“Hey there, pal,” the man says. He still has not yet collected his board. “You were giving me some advice just now. I thought you might want to try again, but make sure I can hear you this time since I couldn’t quite make it out before.” He speaks to Monty, but Max answers.
“I didn’t hear either, but I’m guessing it had something to do with you fucking things up for everyone else.” Max tilts his head to the left and into shadow. He does not move otherwise. “Don’t take it personally. We all fuck up sometimes. I’m guessing you haven’t done much surfing in your life, but it seems like a bit of common sense would tell you that trying to catch a wave someone else is already riding is bad form. If you didn’t know that before, now you do.”
“A couple of smart asses with smart mouths,” the man says. “I’ll be damned if I came all the way out here to get lectured by a couple of teenagers.” The man’s face has bloated like his blood no longer circulates. It just collects in his trembling jowls that inflate the angrier he gets.
Max remains piously still. “Then don’t,” he says. “Walk away. It’s that simple.”
And the man does just that, huffing across the beach like the blood is in his mouth now and tasting of iron and garlic.
For a moment, the brothers share the comfort of the day without spoiling it by speaking. They are here together at Flat Water Beach, and it does not matter who sunbathes beside them or surfs out from underneath them. They have what they need in the sun, the water, and one another.
“Are we asses?” Monty asks, and his voice pops a bubble he did not realize had been around the two of them.
“Nah,” Max says. “We were just trying to help Ohio out in our own way. We’re the salty locals. That’s part of our charm.”
Monty nods. Waits. Stares out over the Pacific. “I called his kids fat.”
“Oh, yeah, then we are definitely asses.”
Max laughs and Monty joins. The surf is ideal, and Ohio is so far away as to be another planet where life somehow sorted itself out minus the help of an ocean.
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