Reviews

This is where reviews--good, bad or indifferent--live. At some point, I hope to have enough of them to be qualitatively selective, but, for right now, I'll be all-inclusive.

"In a stunning debut novel, Michael B. Jones manages to marry a gripping psychological adventure to a serious exploration of human emotion and America during the Reagan and elder Bush years. In watching the decline of his alcoholic, sociopath ex-Marine father Wayne, Charles Reed witnesses the moral decline of America from 1986 to 1993. Jones thus delivers a meditation on the effect of growing up during the 'greed is good' era as much as on dysfunctional families and alcohol and painkiller abuse.

"The reader knows that Wayne and Charles on are a hellbound train before you get through the first two short chapters, but finding out how it plays out and, more importantly, why become as consuming as Wayne’s cravings for alcohol. Jones writes crisply with exceptional insight into and empathy for the failed workings of Wayne’s mind.

"Comparisons to The Great Santani prove easy, but After the Race is a different book with a far more entertaining narrative and a young man as morally complex and confused as Holden Caulfield."

--Art Menius, WCHL (The Art Spot), & artmenius.com.


"In After the Race Michael Jones gives us a complex, skillfully-woven tale of a father and son that kept me reading. Moving smoothly between the two viewpoints, Jones brings us to know Wayne and his son Charles from the inside, as the flawed, struggling, and sometimes noble human beings they—like all of us—are. They come to life on the page. So do all the others who enter the story, bringing their own struggles and their own voices. Jones has a sure ear for voices, and these ring true for me.

"After the Race is a large story, in the hands of a writer who knows how to keep things moving. I found it absorbing, and at certain places had to remind myself to breathe."

--Joyce Allen, author of Hannah’s House and Those Who Hold the Threads.


“A tough, rugged journey through the dot.com decade in rough-South Virginia, where a wrathful father and a vengeful son finally make their last stand in a haunted Shenandoah orchard. Mike Jones has written unflinchingly and with tragic clarity of yet another civil war.”

--Bland Simpson, author of Two Captains from Carolina.


"It sprawls, spins, zigzags, careens, hugs the road and at times I think breaks the sound barrier. There is some fantastically good writing in here. As good as any I’ve ever read on the printed page."

--Ruth Moose, author of The Librarian and Neighbors and Other Strangers.


"If you are a fan of Pat Conroy’s novel, The Great Santini, you should welcome Michael B. Jones’s new novel, After the Race. Jones stakes out his own territory in rural Virginia with the story of young Charles Reed, whose father, Wayne, is a memorably unpleasant ex-military man. Michael B. Jones shows us, in very true- to- life detail, how a man like this leaves his mark on everyone he charms, temporarily, into his orbit. The story is almost biblical. Revelations and redemptions come and go. People are almost saved; they almost save themselves. We see goodness, evil and confusion from nearly everyone. Jones’s portrayal of Charles, who is in his late teens, is done skillfully and we believe in him and his need to triumph, and yet Jones’ understanding of the contradictory forces at work in Charles, makes real the surprising and unusually courageous ending of this first novel."

--Lawrence Naumoff, author of Rootie Kazootie, Silk Hope, and Taller Women.


"From the first page, 'After The Race' grabbed my attention and refused to let it go. The narrative was engaging and fast paced, the dialogue crisp and natural. With that said, one aspect of the book stood out above the others: I have no idea where, when, or how Mr. Jones came to understand the grittier aspects of the human condition, but his characters are not merely three dimensional; they live and breath on the page.

"I'll spare you a summarization that wouldn't do the book justice. Suffice it to say that you will not see a better illustration of the inner-workings of narcissism than Wayne outside of a psychiatrist's office. You will feel the tension of toeing the line between brilliance, talent, struggle and defiance through the eyes of Charles. The story and pace were such that I could not put this book down.

"I was asked to read this by a close friend and was deeply skeptical. I don't generally read new fiction, and as soon as I heard the words "boy and his father" and "first novel" something groaned deep within me. Simply put, I was dreading the "coming of age" novel that I'd read so many times before under so many different titles. I've rarely been so thrilled to be so wrong. I don't grade easily, but I wholeheartedly give 'After the Race' 5-Stars. Perhaps the highest praise I can offer is this: after finishing the book myself, I've purchased five additional copies for my friends and family. I know that you'll love this book as much as I did."

--Peter Eusis, Amazon 5-star review


"Absolutely compelling from the opening chapter to the shocking denouement. The central conflict between the abusive alcoholic father and his teenage son is handled skillfully, as we are gradually given more and more insight into how Wayne (the father) ended up as he did, and even find ourselves sympathizing with him from time to time, while we watch in horror as Charles (the son) starts sliding down his father's path of addiction and sociopathic narcissism. The characters are multi-dimensional and hauntingly realistic, while the plot interweaves the different narrative voices together in a way that heightens the dramatic tension while still keeping the reader guessing right up until the last page. Although this is not a mystery novel per se, like in a good mystery novel the end, once it arrives, seems both completely surprising and completely inevitable."

--Elena P. Clark, Goodreads 5-star Review


"WOW! Hell of a first novel. I was there with each of the characters; felt their anguish anger, and all the other emotions..."

--Barbara Roberts, Amazon 5-star review


"Stunning Book"

"This is a marvelous novel. The book is riveting and fascinating, and I could not put it down. Nothing is boring or unimportant. The characters are beautifully drawn. fascinating and real. It is exquisitely well written, such a treat to have the luxury of prose like this. I can't wait to read Mike Jones' next book."

--Pamela Kirkpatrick, Amazon 5-star review


"Masterful rendering of human insight"

"Michael B. Jones seized my attention--indeed, my heart--with such intensity of despair, frustration, and need for love, an intensity maintained throughout the novel. The author has created a boy's remarkable understanding of the mind of an alcoholic father (and to a lesser degree, the motivation of an absent mother). Acceptance of his lot in life drives young Charles to become not only his own guardian but his father's as well. The story exposes scathing truths about what can go awry in a family, a school, a justice system. Within the human drama, Michael B. Jones has drawn convincing portrayals of activities as diverse as running track and farming an apple orchard dependent on honeybee survival.

"Such impressive human insight in a second (or third or tenth) novel may not surprise, but in a first novel, such insight inspires nothing less than awe. The conclusion stuns. The characters and their "what might have been" will continue to challenge readers long after the the last page."

--Rosalyn F. Lomax, Amazon 5-star Review