Oh my God this book.
If you haven’t run across Stacey Swann’s “Olympus, Texas” on a “Books You Have to Read” list year, consider yourself notified. I could not put this book down. This book is what carried me through the always dreaded college drop-off. It took the immediate sting of separation out of leaving my baby girl in Covid Country for the next few months and kept me wholly entertained for a seven-hour drive home.
Olympus is home to the Briscoe family — pretty big fish in a rather small pond, most everyone in town is well aware of Peter’s moral failings as a husband and that his family includes at least three children that don’t belong to his wife June.
June has spent her entire marriage sucking it up for the sake of Peter and the kids — but what has she lost in the process? With the return of her son March to town, she’s coming to the realization that martyrdom doesn’t taste as good as it once did with her morning coffee.
After a two-year self-exile, March can no longer stay away. Yes, he slept with his brother’s wife. Yes, he’s sorry about it. And yes, he wants to find his way back to being a part of his family. But even he can’t quite articulate what he really craves. And if the one person who can give it to him, can.
Hap isn’t thrilled to see his brother back in town, but he’s got bigger problems — one of the biggest being figuring out just what he did to piss off his wife enough to sleep with his brother in the first place.
And then there’s Arlo and Artie. Peter’s set of twins with his paramour, Lee. Nearly as much a part of the family as Hap, March and their sister Thea, they’re trying to navigate what each of their next chapters look like — he as a budding musician and she as his tour manager that’s ready to retire from the road to take a chance on love. Then tragedy strikes. And their once-close relationship has a bomb dropped on it. Pretty much par for the course with the entire Briscoe clan.
The twists the book’s storyline takes aren’t bombastic or over-the-top, as crazy as some of it might feel. Sure, it’s soapy. But the characters themselves are just so incredibly REAL. Sure, Hap’s wife Vera might look like a piece of work. But Swann takes such great care with her development, that when she and Hap’s story comes to a climax, it leaves readers rooting for both of them, each so broken, to find resolution, whatever that looks like. March’s attempts at redemption are both heartbreaking and touching. And Artie, my God, Artie. Swann’s narrative is brilliant — not too crazy even in a really-kinda-crazy setting, and something that leaves you aching with satisfaction — that “I just read SUCH a good book and now I miss all those people in it” kind of satisfaction. I am rooting for them all and desperate to know if this will ever be brought to life.
Absolutely do not pass this up. Read it and then we can debate who plays who when it becomes a serial on Netflix. (Somebody please make this happen.)