The host of a national book review radio program has called Patrick Garry the best undiscovered writer in America. But Patrick Garry is unique in another respect. He writes about themes and ideas that are often absent in the works of contemporary American novelists.

Garry’s novels reaffirm life and the struggle of individuals to live their lives in ways that rise above mere materialism and the stranglehold of destructive temptations. In A Bridge Back, he writes about characters who never quite lose their desire for redemption, no matter how much guilt they feel for the mistakes of the past. Indeed, as the main character in A Bridge Back discovers, the past, no matter how tragic, is not to be feared. Confronting the past can lead to a discovery of truth, which can then lead to the only true freedom. And once the enslavement to fear is ended, a rediscovery of love becomes possible.

Similarly, Finding Flipper Frank depicts a group of characters unexpectedly thrown together who are all, in one way or another, seeking to overcome traumas or disappointments in life. And what they discover is that faith in each other, in an ideal, and in the promise of redemption can lead to a life of new possibilities. It is a timeless story of faith and redemption, but one told within the setting of modern life—a story about the contagiousness of hope.

 In A Bomb Shelter Romance, Garry portrays America as a place that continually changes—and in doing so, continually offers new opportunities for individuals to find what they have always sought to find. This story, of a family ridiculed as it builds the last bomb shelter of the Cold War, reveals how humor and joy can triumph over even the most sudden and traumatic tragedies. The O’Neals are a quintessential American family, if for no other reason than their ability to laugh at their often unenviable state. Yet, as the narrator acknowledges, sometimes you find love when you’re doing absolutely everything to discourage it.

The characters populating In the Shadow of War are nobly (and sometimes even irrationally) trying to make the best of a tough situation. They have been brought together by the narrator’s grandfather, an irrepressible dreamer who still hopes to turn the tiny little ghost town his ancestors once founded into a thriving community. According to the grandfather, the antidote to a past of disappointment is a more intense dream for the future. It is when he is surrounded by the dreams of his grandfather during the summer of his eighteenth year, when the narrator feels guilt-ridden over the death of his mentally handicapped brother, that the narrator discovers the reality of love and the beauty of people who decide to let their dreams, rather than their disappointments, define them.

One of the themes Garry explores in his novels is the theme of moral relativism and the modern propensity to let political positions trump moral integrity. In The Price of Guilt, the main character learns in a very harsh way that political attitudes, no matter how publicly exalted, are no substitute for individual morality. In fact, a superficial pursuit of redemption through a seemingly noble outside goal ultimately sends the narrator to prison. The value of core moral beliefs is also reflected in The Illusion, where the main character, in his reflexive opposition to anything traditional, discards the very morality that offers the only hope for saving him. Political positions and trendy cultural attitudes not only mask the character’s downfall, but actually end up leading him there.

Life can be simpler, and yet more heroic, than is often portrayed in the modern media, which instead can surround us by a confusion of all that can go wrong with life, rather than clarify for us what lies at the core of life—what defines it and makes it worth living. In Saving Faith, an orphan who spent his entire youth in one of the few remaining institutional orphanages begins his life on “the outside,” working as a repossessor for a car dealer. Eager to experience a world that has always been mysterious and alluring, and cherishing his small apartment that houses the things that now belong only to him, he time and again demonstrates his orphan view of life. It is this open and eager view that leads him, through a man whose car he has accidentally towed, to a patient in a hospital about to be demolished, and to the people trying to save that patient.

The main character in Blind Spots has an almost completely opposite background. He has seen and experienced a brutal and unfair reality of life. And yet, under investigation for a shocking crime he did not commit, he finds the courage and determination to decide the simple truth on which his life is to be defined. This novel presents, through the parallel stories of the accused and the judge, a stark contrast of two lives and two ambitions—and the price they must pay for the lives they choose.

The Illusion is a morality tale about the dangers of letting cultural hipness drown out the attention to true evil. Luke Sellmer wants the good life. He grew up in a family struggling with poverty and social condemnation. His father ran a junkyard, and his mother lived a strict and devout religious life. And Luke wants none of that. He is smart, ambitious, savvy, and about to become very well connected through his marriage to Lauren, whose parents reside comfortably within the social elite. But as much as he wants this new life, and to live it accordingly to the enlightened notions of the social elite, he is stuck in old-fashioned sin. He labors under the illusion that once he becomes fully admitted to his new life, his old life and his secret obsession with it will simply disappear. But contrary to his expectations, the closer Luke comes to his new life with Lauren, the more desperately he holds on to his old life, exemplified by his destructive affair with Justene and his shady financial dealings. And when Justene rejects Luke and returns to her husband, Luke panics. He cannot escape that past life, even as he has dreamed of doing so. He is pulled to it, and has no moral resources to combat that pull. In rejecting his earlier life, and everything about it, Luke has also rejected the only moral tools that can save him from his current quagmire. Consequently, he becomes embroiled in a series of risky events that later set him up for a murder charge.

Patrick Garry’s novels have been enthusiastically reviewed by hundreds of professional book reviewers. And they have received more than 75 different book awards from various national and international literary contests.

Yankton Press and Dakotan article July 2013

Yankton Press and Dakotan article July 2013