Recommended by: Kate Woodruff - Client Sales Executive
Set over the course of one evening, Ordinary Hazards is about family, grief, and home, set in small town America. What makes a place a home, and how do we come back from impossible heartbreak? I picked this up originally thanks to its gorgeous cover, and probably loved it even more because I read it straight after finishing Mare of Easttown, which hit some similar notes. I devoured it over a couple of days after which I immediately thrust it into the hands of a friend.
The book is set over one evening as Emma is reminiscing over her failed marriage to Lucas, 9 months on from their divorce. She is drowning her sorrows in a bar, the Final Final, the very bar when they first met, and the favoured watering hole of the locals surrounding her now. Emma is a business powerhouse, a financial wizard who was seemingly destined to live a life in the city and experience a very particular definition of success. How did she end up here? What led her to her marriage and then divorce? And what’s caused the feeling of melancholy, grief and regret that permeates the book?
The bar itself acts as a touchstone throughout, not just for Emma’s journey, but the characterisation of the other regulars, who we learn each have their own sorrows and burdens. Chapters denote the passing of time as the evening drags on, and as the past comes to light shared demons are revealed, and Emma has to reckon with grief and forgiveness.
This is one of those books that paints a single life in such vivid detail the result is one of universally relatable humanity, the pain and joy of being alive. Anna Bruno has a wonderful writing style, very clever and reflective. By nature of the story, we join Emma as she does a lot of deep thinking, about work, success, money, family, love… At no point is this overwrought or dull, and it builds to an ending that is well earnt and immensely satisfying. There’s also a lot of humour in the book, and a dog, Addie, who is the best depicted relationship with a beloved pet that I’ve read.
This was Anna Bruno’s debut novel, coming from a background in finance - I can’t wait to read what she writes next!