I realized that what JC Miller does is document relationships. Not the pretty, angst-driven ones of the very young, or the happily-ever-afters of romance writers. No, she wants to understand the tangled, messed up places that grownups go to in their own heads and how that affects those around them. Today I’m lucky to review one of her latest contributions to a genre she’s fast defining.
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BlurbReeling from his failed comeback and ruined marriage, washed-out actor Ian James (née Isaac Janowitz) flees Los Angeles for a two-week respite in Northern California’s remote Marble Mountains—Bigfoot country. His time alone in the wilderness begins to peel away the layers of his Hollywood persona. After a fateful meeting with a beguiling woman, Ian begins to question his heart. In a moment of clarity, Isaac ditches his publicist and finds himself in Redding, living with invisibility at the Vagabond Motel. Professor Ruth Hill is burnt out teaching photography at Redding’s Shasta College, eager for her upcoming retirement. But for unexplained reasons, despite weekly therapy sessions, her panic attacks have escalated. Her artistic slump persists. Looking back, she regrets a life without risk; looking forward, she dreads a meaningless future. Going over her proof sheets one morning, she stumbles upon a series of striking thumbnails, reigniting her passion and creativity. Readers will root for Isaac and Ruth as they grapple with their chance encounter on the mountain and search for meaning in their repellent, yet intense attraction. Their paths do cross again, but when confronted with the possibility of enduring love, Ruth’s cynicism creeps in; Isaac’s self-defeating beliefs take hold. For these two damaged souls, it just may be too late.
- Book Title: Believing in Bigfoot
- Author: JC Miller
- Genre: Romantic Literary Fiction
- Length: 248 pages
- Release Date: September 15, 2014 from Booktrope
My Review: 5 out of 5 stars for JC Miller’s Believing in Bigfoot
“Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.” I was a college freshman, entering what I hoped was the right classroom for my Philosophy 101 class, to find these three words on the board. The teacher introduced himself and explained that he would be using what he called, “The Hegelian Triad as the template for the epistemology framing the coming semester. Of course…” He paused to inhale about half a cigarette and gaze with astonishment at the resultant ashfall. “The pejorative view is that Hegel never actually used the triad, and even attributed it to Kant.” The rest of the class laughed dutifully. I wondered if there was any chance I could switch to a class where they spoke English, even as I wrote down for future dictionary search “Hegel. Epistemology. Pejorative. Kant.”
But somehow, Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis—that process of going from an initial starting place, exploring the opposite of that, and then coming to a final result that incorporates both—stayed with me. And it’s what I thought of when reading JC Miller’s Believing in Bigfoot.
Ruth Hill and Ian James are both lost in their antithesis stages. From her childhood as a rural farm girl, Ruth reinvented herself as Root, the glamorous young artist whose photographs took Paris and the European art world by storm. Ian James left the shy, unloved boyhood of Isaac Janowitz behind to become a Hollywood star. But with their youth behind them, neither is able to achieve the final synthesis between where they started and their new persona. Ruth retreats back to the farm and her old life, forsaking her confidence in herself and her art as she raises her son. Isaac has lost his identity in the movie star persona of Ian James.
A chance meeting where Ruth mistakes the bearded, bewhiskered Ian—hiding in the mountains—for Bigfoot becomes the chance for each of them to move toward synthesis of their fractured personas. While Ruth reaches tentatively for the confidence of those Paris days, Ian struggles to reconnect with his family and the history of his roots as Isaac.
What I find particularly interesting is the message that’s not part of this book. Miller doesn’t go for the easy “To thine own self be true” homily. Instead, she allows both Ruth and Ian/Isaac to embrace the success they achieved in their reinvented, although fractured selves. But she shows how the initial promise of their adopted personas ultimately becomes destructive until they find a way to integrate it with the person they started as.
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis: I never really caught up to my chain-smoking philosophy professor. With apologies to whatever the heck his ‘epistemology‘ was aiming at (in the most purely non-‘pejorative‘ sense…), I think JC Miller nailed the triad as both Ruth and Isaac complete the full cycle. Told with JC Miller’s trademark humor and pared-down descriptive prose, Believing in Bigfoot is another five stars out of five for me. It’s not a traditional romance, although the romantic elements are absolutely lovely. Instead, it’s an affirmation of the healing power of love—the fragile love developing between Isaac and Ruth, but also the power that comes from knowing yourself, loving the person you decide to be, and admitting that person’s lovability.
(I do kind of wonder whatever happened to Bigfoot though…)
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**