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Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno

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!

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Ordinary Hazards

For fans of Celeste Ng comes a transfixing debut novel about how life’s small decisions can ultimately yield the most powerful consequences.
Everyone always wants to know why relationships fail. It’s a spiteful curiosity thing, schadenfreude, but also a self-preservation thing. People want to understand how to avoid the fall.

The answer is complicated. There isn’t one reason, one event. It has something to do with smoking cigarettes and drinking all night. It takes into account thousands of hours of labour on a small house, projects finished and unfinished. It is late-night conversations and inside jokes and making love and having a child. The answer is wrapped up, shrouded and ensconced in prioritization, ambition and work. Caring about these things is not the problem. Not caring about them is death.
Emma has settled into her hometown bar for the evening. It was in this very room that she met Lucas a few years back, on a blind date. Nine months ago, in unimaginable circumstances, they divorced.
As Emma listens to the locals’ banter, key facts about her life story begin to emerge and the past comes bearing down on her like a freight train.

A powerhouse in the business world, why has she ended up here, now a regular in the last bar on the edge of a small town? What is she running away from? And what is she willing to give up in order to recapture the love she has lost?
As Emma teeters on the edge of oblivion, becoming more booze-soaked by the hour, her night begins to spin out of control with shocking results.
‘Seen through keen eyes and full of deep feeling, Ordinary Hazards delves into the psyche of a woman grappling with grief, loss, and the burdens of inheritance. Anna Bruno vividly renders the messiness of a single human life in all its joy and heartbreak.’ —CLAIRE LOMBARDO, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had
‘Crisp, haunting, and intelligent. Beneath the surface of this booze-soaked, small town, dive bar novel lies a devastating story of loss, guilt, and grief. Bruno’s narrator proves a dark, funny, unflinching companion as you descend with her, step by step, towards the revelation of what has led her to the bar tonight.’ —STEPHEN MARKLEY, author of Ohio

'Quiet but emotionally engaging, this atmospheric novel has a raft of enduring characters who prompt her memories. Bruno has a gift for observation which she uses to produce a haunting examination of love, loss and grief.’ —Fanny Blake, Daily Mail