In 1992, my husband, Andy, was managing Auntie's when authors David Cates and Pete Fromm came through for a reading. They were on a no-budget tour, as writers most often are, and had nowhere to stay. We let them crash with us, and the combination of beers and food and late-night sarcastic BS forged a friendship between us and Pete (above) that has lasted to this day.
At that point I had never read Pete's work, but I became a fan very quickly. His short stories are glorious gut-punches with unforgettable characters and powerful imagery. His nonfiction puts readers in the sometimes hilarious center of his outdoor escapades. And his novels are deep dives into painful moments and family dynamics that leave me crying, laughing, thinking and recommending Pete's work to everyone I know.
Pete's newest novel, A Job You Mostly Won't Know How To Do, is the story of Taz and Marnie, who are fixing up their fixer-upper when they find out they're going to be parents. Fast-forward to the day after Marnie gives birth: Taz sits with his newborn daughter in the empty, half-finished house alone, an unimaginable future of grief and single fatherhood stretched out in front of him. Taz has no idea how to take the first step. You could be forgiven for assuming this book is a cryfest. And yeah, full disclosure, this story probably will break your heart, but it will also make you laugh, and give you hope, and make you want to hang out with the people who inhabit it.
Writer Steve Almond says, "The comic impulse arises directly from feelings that are inherently tragic: sorrow, shame, disappointment, moral outrage, and so on. Humor is how we contend with the bad data..." As a writer, Pete Fromm understands this, moving readers back and forth between the tragic and the comic not in whiplash fashion, but seamlessly and to immensely satisfying effect. It's not everyone who can create a story that tells difficult truths about death or illness or family struggles while also weaving in the humor that humans seem to find their way to in even the worst moments.
I am lucky to live and read in a place where I actually know a lot of the people who are writing the books I love. But whenever I praise a book written by a friend, Andy asks me, "Is it good because you're friends, or is it just good?" In the case of Pete Fromm's work I can definitely say "It's just good." ♦
Pete Fromm reading A Job You Mostly Won't Know How To Do • Tue, May 14 at 7 pm • Free • Auntie's Bookstore • 402 W. Main • auntiesbooks.com • 838-0206