It's been only four months since I got to know local author Christina Escamilla through her amazing anthology, 64 Deaths, and already she's back with a new and very different novel called The Day the Words Went Away. Rather than exploring a variety of strange endings, she's gone down-right farcical comedy. The amazing thing is that she proves herself just as adept.
Our hero is Peter, and geeky aspiring writer who pays the bills writing term papers for people and awkwardly crushes on the cute medical student living next door. His best friend is Andy, an Alpha Male who also wants to be a writer. The problem is, the two of them are completely out of ideas.
Peter, in a fit of melancholy writer's block wonders if there are no new ideas any more. He sees the dearth of sequels, remakes, and homages and theorizes that somewhere in the universe the place where stories come from has run dry.
Andy thinks that's hogwash, but the two of them make a bet on it and try to come up with a truly new idea by the end of the day.
I've always told people that if you want to have something to write about then you need to go out and have something happen to you that you can turn into a story. Have an adventure, fall in love, meet weirdos, get in trouble, get out of trouble, something. Anything. Escamilla has taken that idea and sent it off into a hilarious series of misadventures that involve everything to public defecation on a bus to redneck terrorists to a street racing abuela that totals Andy's car.
At times it's silly, and Escamilla has a penchant for taking her geek stereotypes a little too far. That said Peter's constant, Deadpool-like inner debate with himself grows on you very fast as do the cast of friends that join him on his odd little spirit journey.
True to her strengths, the best thing that Escamilla does is leave you with sad moments of pathos among the chaos. When Peter and his friends are caught up in a library bombing it results in a pathetic and racist blaming of a quiet Middle Eastern man reading The New Yorker and bothering exactly nobody. It's a small-minded, face-palming moment that eventually plays out to saving Peter and turns the absurd into the tragic.
There's also a corpse-raping morgue attendant that shows off Escamilla's talent for human terror by assuring Peter one day, one way or another, he'll see him again.
Overall, though, The Day the Words Went Away is a lighthearted, engaging little romp about find your artistic self. It's a must-read for people who are caught up in the myth of writing rather than the reality of it, but even for the non-writers out there it's a hilarious kick in the pants in the vein of Mil Millington.
The Day the Words Went Away is out now.
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