That moment that sometimes occurs when one first wakes, before blinking an eye open to take in the wet towel on the floor or the expectant face of the dog, that moment when the subconscious still dances, clutching hands with our feelings and deep down intellect, before skittering away with all her props — that is the plane on which Froelich’s Ladder exists.
It is a book about family, and how sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and how — sometimes — we don’t have to continue to bear the weight of those we’ve disappointed: brothers, fathers, uncles, daughters, ourselves (ourselves, ourselves).
It is funny and weird and tough and complex, this tale set in America’s untamed west, with a modern and whacky sense of humor. Blending magical realism with campfire tension, Jamie Duclos-Yourdon strikes a balance quite unlike other fictions.
In this soggy saga, we encounter outlaws and bear-tenders, a lady of the night and a lady in hiding, a collection of selfish uncles and an Irish-fearing couple of dunces.
It is a punch to the gut to sit, for a time, with these lines, delivered by a mountain of a man with the weight of the world upon his back (a not-quite-modern Atlas), and a biscuit-bringing, no-nonsense farm woman:
“Harald’s dead,” Binx interrupted her. “You can’t disappoint someone who’s already dead.”
“You can’t impress him, either.”
Read those last two lines again. Think. About. That.
And it is this, I think, the thing which exists before we stretch our limbs after slumber. It is that way we sit, in dream states, at the feet of those we love, or have loved, while obligations turn to great, heaping metaphors featuring ladders and taffy and long-bearded men dressed in potato sacks. Jamie Duclos-Yourdon found a way to wrap his fingers around that quickly retreating cloud, and to spin parable and myth into a narrative that smokes and curls and attracts readers (and bandits, alike) to scoot in just a touch closer to the flame.
Buy Froelich's Ladder here.
Jamie Duclos-Yourdon, a freelance editor and technical expert, received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His short fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and Chicago Literati, and he has contributed essays and interviews to Booktrib. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Froelich’s Ladder (Forest Avenue, 2016) is his debut novel.
Reviewed by Brandi Dawn Cornelius.