Better You Go Home, Book Reviews

Better You Go Home Reviewed by Karen Rigby for Foreword Reviews

Better You Go Home

Clarion Review (5 Stars)

Gorgeous descriptions and reflective exposition moderate the dramatic pace of this exciting international story of one family’s secretive past.

Scott Driscoll’s debut, Better You Go Home, evokes the cautious world of mid-1990s Prague and its surroundings through the eyes of a second-generation, the “progeny of exiles.” Driscoll ably threads an adulterous romance with medical urgency, post-war Czech history, and self-reckoning. This labyrinthine novel is an accomplished work that examines the fallout of the past.

The author of short stories in literary journals such as Gulfstreamand Cimarron Review, Driscoll weaves a dizzying plot that shuttles between Seattle and the Czech Republic in the years after the Velvet Revolution. When forty-two-year-old Seattle lawyer Charles “Chico” Lenoch returns to the Czech Republic in search of his half-sister, who he hopes will serve as a kidney donor, he discovers family entanglements with ongoing consequences.

The pressures characters face—caused by family silences, a lifetime of enduring surveillance, and, in some cases, the consequences of either forced cooperation or dissidence in an Eastern Bloc country—bloom into a surprisingly affecting tale. Additional tension in the guise of a decades-old crime, which threatens Charles’s plans to bring his half-sister home, serves as a motivating force.

Amid the high emotional stakes that come with a health crisis, the dramatic journey to uncover truths leans toward excess. The author, however, provides reflective interludes at a Washington raptor center, which allow Charles to consider perceptions of captivity and freedom. Gorgeous, imaginative descriptions of the Czech countryside in Piséčná offer respite from the cat-and-mouse chase between Charles and local officials: “A pumpkin-colored river rolls southwest and loops around Zampach Hill. The village farmhouses string out along the river like bows on a kite tail.”

Gems such as, “When it comes to sorting out identity, it’s the memories we don’t have in common that define us,” deepen the material. Through its thoughtful exploration of a country in transition, Better You Go Home elevates the classic dilemma of whether it is necessary or even worthwhile to pay the debts of one’s forebears. Driscoll also rewardingly avoids judging his protagonist. Charles readily believes his half-sister will relinquish her life to join his own, yet his assumption remains largely unquestioned and is not tinged with a sense of American privilege. Instead, his naive optimism allows vulnerable facets of his character to emerge.

With story lines that converge in a grotesque meeting of rivals—replete with costuming and a conflagration—there’s no shortage of suspense. Beneath the theatrics, subtler, worthy themes of letting go and renewing one’s sense of purpose take hold.

Karen Rigby
February 27, 2014

 

 

 

 

Better You Go Home (reviewed Feb. 2014 by Katherine Kirkpatrick, author of Golden Treasure)

“At once an immigrant story, a medical thriller, and a tale of love. Driscoll keeps all the skeins taut in his hand.” Reviewer Kathryn Trueblood put it well and succinctly. In this beautifully crafted novel, Seattle attorney Chico Lenoch makes a succession of trips, the final one with his father, to the Czech Republic to find the half sister he never knew. Father and son are bound to each other and to a handful of Czech relations and the father’s former neighbors by a mesh of harsh memories and remembered passions, stretching back to more than forty years earlier when Chico’s father fled the Nazi regime with another man’s wife. Driscoll’s strength lies in his ability to enter into the hearts and minds of a number of varied characters. He writes with hard, spare prose and a poet’s artistry; occasional shimmering sentences call out to be read more than once. The dialogue, interspersed with Czech words and phrases, is expertly done. The story is set within a political context that is convincingly rendered. Here is a deftly woven, deeply felt narrative about revelation, loss, family ties, passions and betrayal, coping with the wake of violence and war, and about everyday people trying to sort out right from wrong in complex situations where there can be no moral certainty.

Review from Deal Sharing Aunt A World of Ink Blog Tour Review

December 7, 2013

“I am giving this book a 5/5.”

Better You Go Home by Scott Driscoll review

About the Book:

Better You Go Home shares the story of a man visiting the Czech Republic to find his half-sister and uncovers family skeletons.

Chico Lenoch wonders why his Czech father refuses to contact family left behind the Iron Curtain. Chico’s quest is complicated by his urgent need for a donor kidney. Might his sister be a candidate?

My Review:

This book made me thankful to have relatives that live near me. I do not know much about the Czech Republic. This book taught me the history and the fall of the country. I can only imagine what it is like to live in such dire need of basic necessities. The truth of the needy is seldom told. People will do anything to get what they need, especially when they have little to lose. That need is in this book. There are so many different things that Chico sees when he gets there that it is no wonder that Milada wants to use Chico to escape. Everyone has an ulterior motive. Chico needs a kidney, and his dad needs his secrets to stay hidden. Once Chico finds his sister, he gets more than he bargained for. He has to make a decision, and fast. I definitely could not stop reading this book. I had to find out if Chico got his kidney. I also thought that it was really interesting to find Chico’s family history in the attic. I am giving this book a 5/5. I was given a copy to review, however all opinions are my own.

- See more at: http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/2013/12/better-you-go-home-by-scott-driscoll.html#sthash.j9mXen0o.dpuf

My Review:

however all opinions are my own.

- See more at: http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/2013/12/better-you-go-home-by-

Review by Magnolia Blossom Review - Friday, October 25, 2013 

Better You Go Home

 I really enjoyed ‘Better You Go Home’ by Scott Driscoll. It’s one of the better ‘contemporary literary fiction’ stories I’ve read in a while. It’s well worth shelling out about $7 for the eBook (I think the Kindle price is $6.95 – currently – but you always have to check because sometimes the prices vary!) Coffeetown Press (a small independent publishing group) got very lucky with Scott Driscoll as I’m sure he’s got quite a future ahead of him! Way to go Scott and way to go Coffeetown Press…it’s always nice to see Independent Authors who find a home a smaller publishing houses – it gives the rest of us IAs hope that there’s a small house out there just waiting for us to ‘come home!’–L. Avery Brown, Owner, The Magnolia Blossom Review

Reader Comments by Anna Brown

“Better You Go Home” has been my vacation read. I just concluded the book and needed to immediately send you an email. Excellent read! I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story, and I was very invested in all of the characters – even the minor ones! Thanks for the literary journey! I’ll never forget it. :)

I can’t wait to hear of the book’s success!

Writing Blind Blog Review by Traci McDonald (sent Jan 7, 2014)

Author Review: Scott Driscoll

Are Three some things worth risking everything for? Are there some things that have too high of a price? In Scott Driscoll’s Novel “Better You Go Home” he answers these questions from the viewpoint of not only a man in search of a lost home from his childhood, but lost family, history, and maybe even his own life?
The Main Character,Charles Lenoch,  needs a kidney, he needs to find the truth of his father’s escape from Checkylslovakia in 1938, and he needs to find his half sister before his kindney’s fail.
As a diabetic who has gone through kidney transplant, pancreas transplant, blindness and the other trials of the disease, I connected with this character. I know the pain, struggle, exhaustion, and depression that can accompany critical and permanent illness.
While these aspects of Friscoll’s main character added urgency to the story, it was the enviroment of post communist Checkylslovakia that kept me in the story. The fear, paranoia, bitterness, and even the blooning hope felt very genuine throughout the telling of this story. The advice to go home permeated the checkylslvakian’s  advice to littner. His passion to do just that while remaining in Checkylslovakia was an interesting juxta-position in the novel. Going home becomes the remaining desire of each character as they explore the true path leading them there.
Home is never so distant nor cherished as it is when you are there and still can’t find your way back to your family.
“Better you go home” is a tragic tale of loss and oppression punctuated by the deeper understanding of who and what home and family really are.

Friday, October 25, 2013 (Review by Magnolia Blossom Review)

Scott Driscoll, Better You Go Home

 I really enjoyed ‘Better You Go Home’ by Scott Driscoll. It’s one of the better ‘contemporary literary fiction’ stories I’ve read in a while. It’s well worth shelling out about $7 for the eBook (I think the Kindle price is $6.95 – currently – but you always have to check because sometimes the prices vary!) Coffeetown Press (a small independent publishing group) got very lucky with Scott Driscoll as I’m sure he’s got quite a future ahead of him! Way to go Scott and way to go Coffeetown Press…it’s always nice to see Independent Authors who find a home a smaller publishing houses – it gives the rest of us IAs hope that there’s a small house out there just waiting for us to ‘come home!’–L. Avery Brown, Owner, The Magnolia Blossom Review

Better You Go Home – A book Review by Theresa Rose, author of Golden River

Scott Driscoll’s gripping, gritty novel, Better You Go Home, is a mystery, a race against time and a love story with a strong dose of political thriller thrown in.

Seattle attorney, Chico Lenoch, is on the verge of renal failure and in desperate need of a kidney transplant. His discovery of a series of love letters received by his Czech father reveals that he has a sister in the Czech republic who may qualify as a donor. As the reader is propelled from the Pacific Northwest to Eastern Europe, Scott offers an insight into a wounded populace whose paranoia is often justified as the brutal nature of the Soviet Block lives on shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain. As he searches for his sister, family history emerges, secrets are revealed and love blooms in the midst of the excruciating symptoms of a deadly disease.

Peppered throughout with Czech dialog, this vivid novel portrays the squalor and decay of a ravaged country, a living culture rich in history and an intimate portrait of a family that carries the scars of the Cold War years. Better You Go Home is hard to put down. A most memorable and satisfying read.

Theresa Rose, author of Golden River

Better You Go Home – A book review by Mindy Halleck, Literary Liaisons

Recently I was asked to review author Scott Driscoll’s upcoming novel, Better You Go Home.  Here’s my brief review.

Better You Go Home is a story about family secrets. 

Most of us yearn to know our roots – uncover family secrets and understand those who went before – and at no time does that knowledge come with a more poignant jab to the heart than when we teeter at the edge of mortality.  In BYGH, author Scott Driscoll’s protagonist, Chico Lenoch, embarks on a mission to unearth the truth of his ancestral moorings from this fragile vantage point.

Chico, a diabetic, Seattle attorney, has just received two pieces of disturbing news; a diagnosis of kidney disease, and that he has a sister in a country he has never visited; his father’s homeland, the Czech Republic.

In his quest to save his life Chico journeys to the Czech Republic, and begins a dangerous search for his sister long lost behind the Iron Curtain where the dark truth sleeps beneath a blanket of lies and people still live under the ‘hammer of the Russian Mafia.’  With family secrets so steeped in paranoia, fear and anger that to wake the truth is to risk his own death – but to save his sister is to save himself, he ventures into the dark world his father escaped decades before.  With high stakes and taut page turning tension Chico forges his way beyond past betrayals to salvation; his, his fathers, his sisters and even more players than he realizes.

With a cast of characters to rival The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Chico takes us to the Czech Republic, his father’s family farm in Pisecna, a village close to the mountains bordering Poland. The story revolves around a four-decade old secret and an orphanage where his sister grew up – an orphanage he appropriately, poignantly depicts as an ‘arc of lost children.’

With descriptions that read like a travelogue, we get a clear picture of the place and people of post war Prague. We hear the sounds, smell the air pollution, feel the buzz of a newly born social structure where people struggle to crawl, walk, eat and scratch out a living in a fragile economy in a new world order with deep dark roots and brutal dictator-like gatekeepers at every turn.

In Prague, Chico soon learns every shadow contains ghosts –people who did what they had to do to stay alive –their pasts include bribery, torture, superstitions, paranoia, theft and honor – and now, after war, they don’t like questions.  One tells Chico, it is ‘better you go home.’  Chico also soon learns bribery, torture, superstitions, paranoia, theft and honor are not tools of the past, but still permeate this lapsed culture.

Chico’s failing health clock ticks, loudly. “Waiting” he says, “Is the privilege of the healthy.”

The view of post war Prague is gray, deathlike, dank and musty after generations of government that cared nothing for the environment, never mind their own people, and who raped the land, the rivers, the skies, leaving the wildlife to fend for themselves and eke out an existence on pollution and dried up food sources.   In stark contrast, when the lovely doctor Milada, Chico’s love interest, visits Seattle from Prague, her eyes witness a green world full of thriving wildlife, clean rivers and streams, and friendly people, and though frail and fraught with danger – her hope for a better world is renewed when she returns home to Prague to aid Chico in his perilous pursuit.

With Milada as his guide through a ‘sea of steeples and spires and chimney pots’, Chico delves into the history and people of Pisecna in search of his sister, and his father’s secret.  He meets with retaliation, threats and paranoia ‘thick and blinding’ as fog. The mysteries surrounding Chico’s genealogy are entwined with life and death circumstances, politics, imprisonment, torture, protective village rituals and decisions made that cannot be undone without exacting a steep toll.  Chico pushes boundaries, as only a naïve American would.

It’s a race to save his life – find a suitable kidney donor –and maybe save his sister.  Ultimately who he saves is his father –the original lost child – long tortured by his secret and those ghosts he left behind the Iron Curtain decades before.  With dramatic well-drawn characters, a climax scene with the tension of High Noon, and a peek behind the Iron Curtain,  Better You Go Home is a page turner. *

Better You Go Home by Scott Driscoll
Coming from Coffeetown Press - Coffeetown Press PO Box 70515 Seattle, WA 98127
Better You Go Home - Copyright © 2013 by Scott Driscoll
ISBN: 978-1-60381-170-5 (Trade Paper) - ISBN: 978-1-60381-171-2 (eBook)

Check out Scott’s Blog where he writes about his journey to Pisecna and the politics,

Author Scott Driscoll

people and overall landscape of that part of the world.

Better You Go Home comes out in October BUT if you go to his site

you can read a couple sample chapters. …

Review from JACK REMICK

Blurbopsis for Better You Go Home by Scott Driscoll

Scott Driscoll nails it here. Writing in America in the 21st Century is about family.

Early in our writing we hungered for adventure, the high mountains, the desert, the hunt. We wrote about the diaspora from to the Old World to the New and in so doing we lost contact with our roots. Something happened—we fragmented. We got lost. But family is salvation, and Driscoll makes that clear. Writing in our century is taking us home.

We have to write about family. We are so hungry now for home and family we write about the Marines as family, the family of a baseball team, a business as family. We seek out friends who treat us like family. Family is our great quest—we need to belong.

We are now a nation of single parents, lost children, broken homes, and families torn apart by insane immigration policies—once it was no Jews, please, no Chinese, please, no Irish please. In this century, somebody put the lid on the melting pot and we’re all hurting.

In these first two decades of the 21st Century, we are shattered. We need to get home. Home, as Robert Frost tells us:

“…is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

In Scott Driscoll’s novel Better You Go Home,  we return to the Old Country with the protagonist—Chico Lenoch—to find family torn apart by the early diaspora, the Nazi rape of Europe in the Second World War, the Communist throttling of family. Here, in Mother Europa, Driscoll dives into the meaning of family:  Family can hurt, family can heal. Family can punish, family can save. Chico Lenoch is in pain. He’s dying. “I’m looking at renal failure. My doctor gives me a few months, tops. If my internist had his way, I wouldn’t be here now. I’d be home on my couch preparing for dialysis…”

Chico needs help and there’s one chance for salvation—a half sister, the child of the father who abandoned the Old World. Searching for his sister, anxious about his future, Chico returns to his roots but can he even ask family to make the sacrifice that will save him? Will family be enough? Family can give you a body part, save you, keep you going. Chico needs this half-sister. On the quest for salvation, Chico discovers that only family can give answers to all his questions about life and death.

The story is complex, the characters rich and thick and vibrant. There’s love and sex, there’s hope and redemption, there’s sin and forgiveness, there’s death and torture. But, as Driscoll tells us, in the right circumstances “…even torture can be a sign of love.”

Reversing the thrust of diaspora and immigration, Chico returns with his father to the Old Country. In the end, homecoming is what it’s all about: “I’m the lucky man,” the father says. “I am with my family in my birth land and free of the hungers that will eat him alive.”

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One thought on “Better You Go Home, Book Reviews

  1. Pingback: Better You Go Home, by Scott Driscoll: a Life-Altering Visit to the Czech Republic | Coffeetown Press

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