Dr. Heshmat Cook May 9, 2012
Will Stallworth, the main character of this novel, is a fascinating creation–complex and intricate like most human beings. But unlike most of the human beings we run across in our lives, we are allowed a deep dive inside the heart, mind and soul of this young man (he’s 30 years old). The author takes us on a roller-coaster journey of a few harrowing, hectic and heroic weeks in Will’s life as an advertising superstar in the mid-1980’s who is faced with unspeakable challenges and obstacles personally and professionally. (I have only seen one episode of Mad Men, but it seems like Out of Fear has many of the dramatic elements my friends, who are Mad Men fans, tell me about)
Will has just returned to his hometown, Atlanta, to take over the creative department of one of the region’s hottest advertising agencies. Will is no creative slouch himself–he was recently voted Ad Age’s top creative talent on the West Coast. The bad news is that his return home plants him squarely at the center of the family crucible that drove him away 8 years earlier when he left home “for good” to go to college out West.
Deep inside Will smolder demons and fears that begin slowly and powerfully to emerge in various ways…
Will must now grapple and contend with a number of arresting challenges. At work: he heads up the pursuit of a hotly contested national advertising account for which his new agency is a prohibitive underdog; internal politics at his new agency make the working environment dicey at best. At home: his father remains the narrow-minded, warped influence he always was for Will; his mother continues to survive in a negative environment with a good spirit, but Will knows his father’s negativity is killing her; his sister Maggie and he are forever scarred and estranged by the loss of their older brother, Randall, many years earlier–a direct result, Will thinks anyway, of his father’s relentless brutality.
Deep inside Will smolder demons and fears that begin slowly and powerfully to emerge in various ways: He experiences panic attacks that threaten his performance; nightmares of his beloved brother torture his dreams; he gets physically sick from the unrelenting stress of it all. And the best part of it is that I FELT LIKE I was THERE. Right THERE with Will in the moments he is going through all this! I could feel his heart pounding like it was my own; feel the sweat gathering on my brow as it did on his; feel his hands trembling as he was ambushed once again by ghosts from his past.
…it is exhilarating and quite inspiring to see how he manages to battle his way out of the many log jams of his life…
The writer’s style is so different from other writers I’ve read. There are many good writers out there, of course, but the way Hutcheson deploys the first-person perspective on the character of Will Stallworth is original and incredibly arresting. Yes, the prose is raw and even erotic in some scenes, but this style fits comfortably into the frame that the author has built for us–to better understand, be challenged by, be troubled by and finally be uplifted by this courageous young man and his journey.
I won’t go into the rest of the story except to say that as hopeless as Will’s life seems during the first half of the book, it is exhilarating and quite inspiring to see how he manages to battle his way out of the many log jams of his life as the story progresses. To courageously battle his way out of fear.