Book Reviews

Book Review: Ordinary Hazards, by Anna Bruno

Ordinary Hazards,

by Anna Bruno

Publication: Atria Books; August 18, 2020

ordinary hazardsAbout: It’s 5pm on a Wednesday when Emma settles into her hometown bar with a motley crew of locals, all unaware that a series of decisions over the course of a single night is about to change their lives forever. As the evening unfolds, key details about Emma’s history emerge, and the past comes bearing down on her like a freight train.

Why has Emma, a powerhouse in the business world, ended up here? What is she running away from? And what is she willing to give up to recapture the love she once cherished? An exploration of contemporary love, guilt, and the place we call home, and in the tradition of Ask Again, Yes and Little Fires EverywhereOrdinary Hazards follows one woman’s epic journey back to a life worth living.

*My Review*

Ordinary Hazards has been patiently waiting on my iPad for quite a while. To be honest, I don’t even remember requesting it, however, this is a hell of a debut by Anna Bruno that I am so glad I didn’t miss. Whether you drink or not, whether you are a homebody or not, everyone knows that one small, local bar. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. Strangers may come in and leave, but overall, it is a place where you see the same people and hear them discussing pretty much the same things. This novel takes place at one such bar called The Final Final. Emma arrives at 5 pm, sits on a stool, and is promptly served her regular whiskey from the bartender. Over the course of the evening, the reader learns about Emma’s past and that is she is no longer with her husband Lucas. Eventually, Emma’s entire story comes out explaining the unimaginable losses she has experienced, but first are the stories of all of those in the bar, including Emma and Lucas’ story,  told in both past and present tense, leading up to the climax of the story.

Anna Bruno’s writing is vivid, poetic, and has the gorgeous flow of that of a seasoned writer. The descriptions are detailed and honest in such a raw way that at times it wasn’t entirely comfortable. However, her words made me feel as if I was right there in each scenario watching it play out with my own eyes. With that being said, I also found myself bored at times and skimming over certain recollections. The present tense happenings never let me down, holding my attention from beginning to end, but some of the back stories on Emma and other various characters felt cumbersome at times. But, to anyone that reads this novel and thinks about giving up, don’t do it. A slow-burn character-driven novel, Ordinary Hazards just continues to expose more of who Emma really is, the demons that she battles, and the demons being battled by those around her. After a while I found myself completely unable to set this one down wondering what would happen next and exactly how far each of the characters was willing to go.

Main themes of this novel include grief, struggling with forgiveness, and struggling to accept where we are in our lives. The draw of alcohol, socializing, and the hopes of forgetting (even if just for awhile), pulled each of these unique characters into The Final Final each evening where truths were spoken, hard feelings were expressed, and tempers eventually flared. But most of all, it’s about the one night where Emma seems to come to terms with her life and her experiences, finally recognizing that some of her great loss in life was voluntary and that she can make the choice to seek joy and love despite her losses.

Ordinary Hazards was a 5-star read that I highly recommend. Will you laugh and feel uplifted while reading? No. However, there are great lessons about the life we create for ourselves, accepting the past, and moving forward.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.


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