A story of loss, change and transcendence, Homing Instincts follows Seth Hingham, a young wildlife biologist, as he struggles to put his life back together after his news anchor girlfriend walks out on him and his much loved father dies.
Seth longs to retreat to the pristine woodlands of New England’s North Country, where he believes anonymity and solitude will heal his wounds. But a slow job market up North forces him to first make a detour to his Connecticut hometown.
Old ghosts pop up, as Seth’s cousin concocts a plan to honor the memory of a high school classmate killed in a long ago accident for which Seth has always felt responsible. At the same time, changing family dynamics in the wake of his father’s death are toppling the old status quo as Seth struggles to determine who he is and where he belongs. A chance at new love with a spirited, yet fragile, single mother further complicates the picture.
Homing Instincts traces Seth’s painful, redemptive, and sometimes humorous, journey to re-imagine his past and create a new future.
“In Karen Guzman’s pitch perfect debut novel, the past holds Seth prisoner with exquisite power, keeping him frozen in time…This is a splendid book.” — Jacqueline Sheehan, New York Times Bestselling author of Lost & Found and other novels.
“Karen Guzman’s eye for detail and ear for the truth take us on a journey of redemption as Seth gingerly tests a new relationship and tries to put his troubled past into perspective. Homing Instincts wraps a complex contemporary tale in lyrical language and astute insights.” — Susan Schoenberger, author of A Watershed Year and The Virtues of Oxygen.
Karen Guzman’s new novel, Arborview, is now available through all major outlets. Her debut novel, Homing Instincts, was published by Fiction Attic Press in 2014. Karen’s short fiction has appeared in a number of literary magazines, and her story collection, Pilgrims, was a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award. She is a contributor to the Collegeville Institute’s Bearings Online magazine. Karen has worked as a journalist at the Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn., and at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. She is presently a writer at the Yale School of Management. She co-founded the blog WriteDespite.org
“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people,” says Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. “But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?”
Is there anyone among us who can’t relate to the sentiment that although pain, heartache, despair and betrayal exist as character-building tests for us to find out how strong we really are, do we really have to get all of these troubles heaped on us at once? In her debut novel, “Homing Instincts,” Karen Guzman delivers a poignant, heart-wrenching and soul-drenching story of a flawed hero who goes into the woods to lose himself but discovers that sometimes when life collapses around one’s ears, it’s for the divine purpose of constructing a new foundation of promise and possibilities.
We first meet Seth as he’s driving his car on a dark and rainy night, headed back to his hometown - a scenario that’s conducive to reflection, regrets and a plethora of what-ifs. Not only has his dad recently died but Seth has been dealt the additional blow of being dumped by the woman with whom he believed he’d happily spend the rest of his lifetime. At this juncture, Seth feels lonely and rudderless, despite his mother’s insistence that he’s welcome to stay with her for as long as he wants. Any parent who has ever watched their adult offspring’s confidence crumble has certainly entertained the possibility of “What if s/he moves back into their old room? What will our dynamic be? Can I move forward myself if my own child is either stuck in neutral or is sliding backward?”
Guzman’s remarkable ease with realistic dialogue is frequently underscored by all of the things that go unsaid, the fragile emotions coiled just beneath the surface and which would take only the lightest straw to deliver permanent breakage. As earnestly as Seth wants to project an optimism about the future that he clearly doesn’t feel, it isn’t long before demons of the past and adversaries in the present start closing in. The author’s first-person perspective is an effective one because it invites us fully into Seth’s head, including revisitations of early memories. Again this will strike a chord with anyone who has ever speculated, “If I had only done such-and-such a little bit differently, then maybe I wouldn’t be hurting so much right now.”
Although I am certainly giving this book 5 stars for the quality of wordsmithing, the pacing of the plot, the rich development of the characters, and the vibrant pictures Guzman paints of the environment, there is one common problem with a first-person view. Specifically, everything is told to us in the past tense; i.e., “I turned into the driveway” vs. “As I turn into the driveway.” Subliminally, this conveys to the reader that the protagonist is now well past all of the events that unfold in the story and is now telling us about them in the style of memoir rather than allowing us to experience them in a real-time, present moment. Again, it’s a common hiccup with first-person narratives and is akin to a bookend approach in which the main character is introduced to us in the present, segues to an extended flashback, and then ends with the protagonist back in the present.
Whether she is describing road conditions, neighborhood trees, furniture, clothing or the smell of dinner on the stove, Guzman is adept at putting readers right in the middle of the scene and making them feel at home there. I also loved the protagonist’s observation that “leaping is not a thing you do with your eyes open. You can keep them open right until the moment of takeoff, but in the end you can’t really see where you’re going to land.” At the end of the day, it’s a lovely affirmation that if you really knew everything that was going to happen behind the next door, over the next hill, or around the next corner, you might do things that actually prevent you from growing into the person who can best handle – and appreciate - those very surprises.
This is a great book for that lazy day ,whether it be rain or shine, to grab a copy and read. As others have said and I very much agree, this book is very absorbing. It grabs you and sucks you in till you feel like you are right there with the characters in the book. You can hear the waves hit the shore line and feel the passion between to of the main characters. I found a lot of little bits of wisdom that will stick with me so when life has me going in circles I can pluck these out of my memory and use them in my own life. The ending will make you feel warm and contented like a big bear hug; but the door is left open to continue this story and you will most definitely want to read more about the future of these characters. I found that it is well written and very much believable. So if you need that breather from your hectic life or you feel the need to stop and smell the roses find this book, snuggle into your favorite spot to read and soak in this story. We all need those books in our lives that can give us a little perspective in our own lives and this book fits that bill. I really enjoyed reading this book and will be looking forward to the next book by Karen Guzman!!
This read was enjoyable first because of my familiarity with the setting, second because of my familiarity with the circumstances, and third because I have faced similar issues. Upon reflection the decisions made by the lead character Seth attracted me to track some of my own behaviors and actions as they are now influenced by my past. 'Homing Instincts' by Karen Guzman made me appreciate the difficulties of relationships and the slow but sometimes shallow considerations that (I and) some men put into them. Yet I find that I am just like Seth especially by making lasting but quick decisions which, in his case, are described only in the last two pages of the book.
I want other readers to know that acceptance, loyalty and work must go into each relationship if it is to be meaningful. Author Karen Guzman describes a young male as he tries to break through adult male narcissism which comes as he tries to maintain the paired relationships that come in his life. You should also know that by page 313 I had "guilty tears" in my eyes as the main character analyzes but does not utilize, and therefore does not build on important bonds. Just as Seth's life becomes empty by page 47, so too did his choices bring him to emptiness after the break -- up with his future love focus.
I am looking for a word that describes the opposite of the tendency towards selflessness. Let me say "selfness" -- or the tendency to be consumed with self while ignoring others and their needs. We must learn to fight this "selfness" or rather self-centeredness. Truly, "I need a place to put my energy," as Seth's Mother says near the end. Slowly or quickly, the resolve to work towards something has to come. This is how we 'find' ourselves -- we must hope to find the will to care.
This book in my view gets a "four +". Thank you.[RNF3rd]