The Brennan siblings—Gavin, Jonah, and Samantha—boast impressive resumes. Gavin, living in Los Angeles, stars in a television show, Sam, a talented dancer, is a featured performer at a well-funded (if remote) Russian dance company, and Jonah, a graduate student studying elephant communication, conducts field work in the forests of Gabon.
However, as they all travel home to Chicago for the holidays, they each harbor deep anxieties. Gavin’s relationship has just ended, and his show canceled, leaving him wondering if acting is the right profession for him. Sam arrives home unemployed as her heroin addiction got her kicked out of the dance company, and Jonah has involuntarily become a courier in an ivory smuggling operation. Both Sam and Jonah desperately attempt to keep their plights hidden, while their mother advises them not to bring up Gavin’s show.
Despite their efforts, the siblings learn at least some of each other’s trials, and when Jonah returns to Gabon, Gavin and Sam leave with him, pretending for their parents’ sake that they are going back to their regular lives. In Western Africa, though, they become caught up in dangerous political and criminal unrest, and all the things that were so comfortably unspoken bubble to the surface and demand attention.
I am an only child and am fascinated by sibling relationships, and I also like to read about lives on the edge, so I was attracted by the description of The Resolutions by Brady Hammes. This debut novel contains interesting reflections and some lovely writing. It contained too much graphic detail about elephant poaching without any seeming purpose for my taste. I would have at least wanted comeuppance of the perpetrators or conveyance of why such slaughter is wrong, but those aspects were missing. Furthermore, the poaching operation was much more prevalent in the narrative than I expected.
While the novel is told entirely in third person, the perspective shifts between the three siblings, and the secondary characters are rather flat, which might be by design, to show how the siblings shine brighter than anyone else to each other. What few flashbacks there are I remember being told from Gavin’s point of view and include stories about him and Sam—Jonah is almost always excluded, which seems a strange choice.
Beyond sibling relationships, the book shows how a small decision or action can create a tidal wave of consequences. Because the initial decisions of these characters were so poor or so impetuous, summoning empathy for them was difficult.
The Resolutions was an interesting, though-provoking read, and I liked Hammes’s writing style, but I did not enjoy anything related to elephant poaching, and I thought the characterization was uneven. Overall, though, this is a solid debut, and I will definitely watch for Hammes’s future work.
Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books/Random House for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.