Disclaimer: Aaron D. Gansky has been a friend of mine for many years. It is because we are both Christian writers (and he is married to one of my close friends which is how we met) that we get along well. These facts have in no way influenced this book review.
I bought The Bargain for my Kindle. I’m all about supporting local artists. I also like to read what others are writing, and learn from their style and format. The Bargain did not disappoint.
To be honest, I’m no longer much of a reader (I still haven’t finished the Louie L’Amour book I started two summers ago). I want to be. But I keep myself busy with the day job, home life with Dot at Bedford Manor, and writing my own stories.
But one evening I needed a break from all that. So I picked up my Kindle and decided to glance through the first few pages. The more I read, the more I understood the cover art. Can you see it? A pensive man, a train, and a desert. And oh, so much more!
It took just seven days for me to finish the story. I haven’t read that fast since I was pregnant with Dot . . . and she’s 19. I found myself irritated that my aforementioned life responsibilities got in the way of reading more, say at 3 o’clock in the morning or during office hours. I made Starbucks staff look at me funny as I gasped, frequently. (Note to self: stop emoting in public.)
The Bargain tells the story of international reporter Connor Reedly, in his own voice, as he struggles to find meaning and make sense of his dying wife, Nadine, and a town the world wants to forget. They arrive in Hailey, home of Nadine’s sister, Aida and her friend Mason. Mason is tasked with offering Connor $250,000 if he writes ten articles in eight days. Mason hints that to refuse means certain death for Nadine, and all of Hailey.
Connor has to choose between spending his wife’s dying days at her side making her comfortable, or talking to strangers in hope of saving her. What secrets does he uncover? In the end, is Hailey really worth saving?
The Bargain, although written by a Christian author and containing Christian themes, is not only for Christian readers. It’s not an in-your-face sermon. The characters are hardened, tough, bitter. They are criminals telling their stories. They are victims sharing their loads. They are a collection of folk who are nitty-gritty in a place that no one wants to visit, let alone live.
And it’s up to Connor, a non-believer, to find out if there are any redeemable qualities, not only in Hailey, but in himself as well.
Okay. That’s the synopsis. Here’s what The Bargain did for me personally:
- It made me cry. It really did. Aaron’s characters are true, honest, not polished or cleaned up. The reality that life sometimes sucks invades this book not with a depressing countenance, but with a breathless, there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I sort of reading. I found myself nodding in understanding at each interaction, with all of Connor’s thoughts, and even in the solitude faced by the characters and Hailey as a whole.
- I saw much of myself in this blend of people. From those who make no sense of their struggles, to those who justify their wrongdoings, to those who question everything, to those who just accept the world as it is. From the hopeless to the hopeful, there is a bit of each of us in each of the characters.
- It left me wanting more. I’m a sucker for ongoing stories and I was sad when I reached the end. I like the continuing soap operas, trilogy movies, etc. So if you’re reading this, Aaron (and I know you are!), please tell me you’re writing more. If not these characters, then more like them. Please. Thank you.
- It changed my perspective. Life isn’t always pretty. That doesn’t mean it has to be hell on earth. It’s not always about me (or Connor) and sometimes the choices aren’t easy. But they are choices. Sometimes, what you think will work, doesn’t. But sometimes, just sometimes, what you have no hope for actually happens. Or something completely different. This book affirmed it’s okay to just close your eyes and say, “What’s next?”
There’s so much more I want to tell you, but I don’t want to give away the ending. I will, however, share my short interview with Aaron for this giveaway:
- Mojo: Is this your first suspense novel?
Aaron: Yes and no. My first novel was also suspense, but, like most first novels, it wasn’t good, and hasn’t been published.
- Mojo: How long did it take you to write it once you had the idea?
Aaron: It was the matter of about eight months from concept to the end of draft one. Tack on another couple of months for editing, then a lot of years shopping it to publishers. Once it was published, we worked on edits for another couple of months. I’d estimate, conservatively, it was a little under two years of active work (most in revisions and edits).
- Mojo: What was the hardest part about writing THE BARGAIN?
Aaron: That’s a good question. For me, the writing isn’t the hard part, it’s the shopping and waiting for publication. But, because I wrote it when my kids were young, I’d say the hardest part was waking up early to write before my kids got up. I kept Starbucks’ pockets well lined in those thin hours of the mornings. In context of craft, I struggled to keep the quality high throughout the novel. My challenge was to make each “article” stand up to the last. I had the first few in mind, but coming up with the others that would be as equally as compelling gave me a lot of trouble.
- Mojo: It’s a fast paced read, and at times volatile and emotional. Did you ever find yourself getting caught up in the story instead of writing it?
Aaron: I did. I think, more than anything else, the final scene in Veronica’s story is what really got me. I won’t spoil it, but if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was a chilling scene to write. I knew exactly how I wanted to handle it, and it came pretty naturally, and the words fell into place, and horrified me with each letter that dropped. My hope is that my readers have a similar experience when they read it—a chilling terror that washes over a subtle, quiet hope.
- Mojo: What is your writing process (outline v. discovery)? I learned those terms on your podcast.
Aaron: I’m a die-hard discovery writer. It’s how my mind works. I can outline, but I’ve not had nearly as much success with that strategy.
So. Are you intrigued enough to read The Bargain? Do you want to win your own autographed copy? Then look no further and enter below!