Joseph Edwin Haeger

Book Review: The Way We Came In by Kelby Losack

Author Photo by Erika Losack

Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews The Way We Came In by Kelby Losack. (Broken River Books)

 

Kelby Losack’s new novel, The Way We Came In, is about the reunion between twin brothers. One brother is released from jail, and they pick up right where they left off. Rent is due and while they attempt to get the money an honest way, it falls through and they have to turn to a bout of crime in an attempt to avoid eviction.

Kelby Losack is a wizard with words, dropping in small details that flesh the whole story out, engaging the reader, and building an impressive level of empathy.

The brothers are nameless. Rather, there is the first-person brother (I, me, my) and the second-person brother (you, you’re, your), and structuring the book this way has a chilling effect. It gives the reader the opportunity to pick a brother to inhabit. For me, since I was the “good” brother, I fell into the first-person position, and it was as if I was talking to my own brother during their conversations. I’m sure if he were to read this book, he’d have the opposite effect. It allows the audience to choose their own adventure in this concise 100-page shot of adrenaline. With this simple choice, Losack has added to making a connection with the reader much quicker in a more subtle and satisfying way.

 

Kelby Losack is a wizard with words, dropping in small details that flesh the whole story out, engaging the reader, and building an impressive level of empathy.

 

The Way We Came In moves so quickly and with such ease that it might feel like it’s exclusively plot-driven. And yeah, it can be read and enjoyed that way. But reading this fast—which is easy to do—bypasses all the deep back story that Losack has snuck in there with little details. When the brother’s gaze lingers on the main character’s prosthetic leg, it makes you wonder the cause behind the lost leg. Did the brother have something to do with the loss? And even if he did, there has clearly been forgiveness, so why is there still a deep-seeded sense of guilt coming from him?

At this point, I found myself having to go back to reread the pages I’d absent-mindedly read while I was trying to figure out the history of these brothers. In all actuality, it doesn’t matter to this story. It’s the simple echo of their past that we need. There are other moments like this peppered throughout the book, letting us know these are fully developed characters, even if we aren’t privy to the details of why.

The small moments help make The Way We Came In so damn compelling. It’s a quick and fun (in some sense of the word) book with an easy-to-follow linear plot, but what’s in between the words is the meat of the story. What’s left unsaid has me still thinking about the twins a week after I finished the book. It’s the emotional wounds festering in these characters that keep creeping back into my head (in the same way Losack’s Heathenish did), and the reason I’m going to be pushing this book on all my friends.

So, what are you waiting for?

 

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Joseph Edwin Haeger

Joseph Edwin Haeger is the author of Learn to Swim (University of Hell Press, 2015). His writing has appeared in The Pacific NW Inlander, RiverLit, Hippocampus Magazine, and others. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife and son.

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