Logan Pyle’s life is falling apart. It has been just four months since his father, Gus, died after an agonizing four-year illness. Bennie, Logan’s stepmother, has moved out of the family home, but Logan remains with his wife, Julie, and their four-year-old son, Owen. The home is filled with memories, but the Pyles are making few new ones these days. Julie, an attorney, is a workaholic, consumed with a big case she is litigating with Gus’s partner. Logan is a stay-at-home dad, but also owns a sporting goods shop on land left to him by Gus. Bob, Logan’s best friend, oversees the store’s daily operations, but business is very slow, inventory is piling up, and Logan is resisting an attractive offer to sell the land.
As for little Owen, he seems to have regressed in the days since Gus’s death. He insists he is baby and strives to prove it by sucking his thumb, demanding to be carried, and asking to drink from a bottle. Owen lacks the athletic prowess Logan enjoyed, and that frustrates Logan, as well. He watches Owen struggle with his swimming lessons and wonders why the sport does not come as easily to his son as it did to him.
Logan snaps under the weight of all the stressors in his life. Will he be able to salvage the life he has built with Julie and Owen?
In the hands of a talented author, the story of ordinary people reacting to extraordinary circumstances can be both fascinating and illuminating. Brand New Human Being is just such a story.
With Logan Pyle, author Emily Jeanne Miller introduces readers to a quintessential “everyman” with whom they can readily identify. Logan is somewhat hapless, but endearing in his owned flawed way. He was working on his doctoral thesis when he returned home for a visit and met Julie, the hotshot new lawyer working in his father’s firm. Their attraction to each other was instantaneous and reckless. Before long, Logan found himself back at home in Montana, his doctorate on hold, marrying Julie and creating a life with her and the brand new little human being they unintentionally created, Owen.
The fledgling little family never had a opportunity to settle into a comfortable routine before Gus’s final illness was diagnosed. The grueling responsibilities of caring for Gus, helpless to stop his physical decline, further complicated Logan’s complicated relationship with his stepmother, Bennie, a woman just five years his senior whom Gus married when Logan was just seventeen years old. And in the few short months since Gus’s death, Logan has found himself coping with financial pressures, as well as his feelings about the manner in which Gus distributed his assets and the offer he has received for the land Gus left him.
In Brand New Human Being the focus is squarely on Logan, his struggles, and his relationships with four people most important to him: Julie, Owen, Bennie, and, of course, Gus, who looms large in Logan’s consciousness and decision-making even in death. Gus is portrayed as a force of nature — the kind of man who commanded an audience just by walking into a room — from whom Logan sought and needed approval. Gus was not without his faults — his failure to appreciate the awkward relationship between Logan and Bennie perhaps chief among them. But he loved his son unconditionally and was indisputably Logan’s compass. Miller deftly employs a classic literary conundrum — a young man grieving the death of and adrift without the strong guiding hand of a beloved father — to maximum advantage.
Miller’s female characters are equally compelling, although readers get to know Bennie better than Julie. And that is appropriate given that it is Logan’s complicated feelings about Bennie that have, to some degree, overshadowed and informed his tenuous marital relationship. The most heart-tugging of all is little Owen, who is perceptive, observant, and so vulnerable. Logan, like Gus, loves his son and only wants the best for him, but like any first-time parent, just isn’t sure that he is doing a good job with the boy. He sees every flaw in Owen as both a reflection and rejection of himself, and finds it difficult to simply let Owen be Owen.
Because Miller has expertly set the stage, when Logan’s meltdown occurs it is both believable and heart-wrenching. His behavior is both predictable and somewhat surprising, but reads like an authentic reaction to one stress too many, and at that point the book’s pace quickens appropriately. The obvious questions about the Pyle family’s future propel the action forward as Logan makes a serious of bad decisions, culminating in a catastrophic event.
Brand New Human Being is a beautifully crafted tale about growing up and allowing grief to provide perspective on both one’s past and future. It is the story of a young man who learns how to be a family man and appreciate all that entails. By the end of the book, Logan Pyle is a brand new human being and readers will feel a bit brand new themselves for having experienced his journey with him.