One believes in aliens, another is a pothead philosopher, while still others play with illegal explosives for fun. A vegan pacifist lives there, along with nomadic born-again Christians, a schizophrenic unicycle rider, and a mysterious wise man.
At first, Tom feels like the only “normal” person in the building. However, he soon believes that the very people he at first considered unstable and strange have become a lens through which he gets a new look at himself and everything else.
But when something happens that leaves the tenant community changed and off-balance, Tom comes to wonder if his karmic weight, added to the Cooper building, has thrown off the bizarre status-quo energetic equilibrium of the place. In the end, Aliens, Drywall, and a Unicycle is the story of growth from delusion to examination to awareness of what is truly important in life.
A entertaining examination into the interconnected lives of a group of people who avoid being stereotypes. Refreshingly free of politics. I kept waiting for the aliens. No spoilers here.
I truly thought provoking book with great characters and a really great ending. I really enjoyed this book. Five stars!
Having attended college in a small town it was easy to picture the scenery described. Every character is eccentric, quirky, and at the same time very relatable. I found myself laughing out loud at times and eager to finish “just one more chapter”.
Couldn’t put it down. Finished it and left wanting more. Hope there is a sequel in the works. Will definitely recommend to my fellow book lovers
This engaging novel tells the story of Tom Tibbets, a down-on-his-luck journalist who thinks himself superior to the oddballs who live in the apartment building where he has washed up after a divorce. The characters who surround him – and who thrust themselves into his life – are a constellation of suffering, lonely, or seemingly deluded people. Tom views them all with plenty of judgement, perceiving himself as different from them, as an objective journalist who will tell their demented stories. Although Tom sees himself as an outsider, he himself is far from perfect; in fact, he seems to fit right in. As Tom is pulled into the current of their lives, coming to know them, to hear them, to smoke with them, and to laugh with them, he is forced to think more deeply about what it means to be effective… to be successful… and to be connected to other people. This book will pull you into the lives of characters who feel real. (It’s also an absolutely perfect rendering of a small NH town.) They’re not perfect, and what they have to share with you is born of that imperfection. It’s a gift worth finding in this lovely book.
A wonderfully written book, an Our Town for 2021 and beyond. Captures the intimacy of neighborhood and community and its dark underside. Who belongs and who is strange? Where are we all going and how can we get there? From one wonderful, funny, provocative scene to the next this novel by Kevin St. Jarre illuminates our pain, our joy, our fury, and the questions that can guide us into the light. Highly, highly recommend.
With wit and wonderful human insight, St. Jarre delivers a book as quirky and enjoyable as his colorful characters. If you’re looking for great dialogue, you can’t go wrong. Makes me want to move to a shabby New Hampshire Motel.
This is a great read. St. Jarre’s book moves along at a good pace and pulls the reader, willingly, along with it. Almost of us have lived somewhere, amongst strangers (at first), that has changed us and our lives. Your college dorm. Your first apartment as a young person. A home in a neighborhood. Or middle-age moves to new locations and situations. Such is the case for Tom, the main character, who is making a middle-age move and job change and finds himself growing attached to the odd residents of his new apartment building. Through the ups and downs of his interactions with them, he comes to know himself better, finds friendship and eventually love. St. Jarre’s deft novel explores the ways in which we humans can balance each other, degrade each other, like each other, love each other and everything in between. The human comedy, can be dark, yes, but largely it is a beautiful thing. Every human has something compelling about them when one takes the time to stop and listen and ask questions. If the aliens are watching us, as posited in this novel, then what do they see? Do they see how inextricably we are bound to one another? Even though we often live separate lives, in separate apartments. Would they understand? I highly recommend this book!
This book is a snappy read full of interesting characters who feel authentic. (I feel like I’ve met a few of these people). The writing is rich and nuanced enough to be interesting, but not pretentious. There’s a lot of hilarious New England charm if you’re in the know and will teach those readers “from away.” The book centers around an apartment complex that is a grown up Island of Misfit Toys. Everything and nothing makes sense, just how life really happens. I enjoyed the read.
Here’s the deal, y’all: New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, attracts a certain kind of someone. (Seriously. Our license plates legit say Live Free or Die, which is not what you want to be considering as a life motto during a particularly troublesome morning commute, but there you have it. That’s who we are.) Apartment life in small town New Hampshire? Well. It’s a scene, and a scene that Kevin St.Jarre captures particularly well. If you don’t live in an apartment in New Hampshire, let me give you some insight. As I type this, right now, I can smell my neighbor’s pot (she self medicates with very skunky weed), we live with what might be the ghost of the woman who was murdered on our floor (she’s in charge of the elevator, which everyone acknowledges is kinky), and my former best friend lives downstairs and pretends that I am not here. Art imitates life. Kevin does it better than a lot of other people. Is this book always comfortable? No. But people aren’t always comfortable. Kevin’s characters are real people. People you might know. People who do wonderful things and stupid things and in between things. They are people you know. That’s what makes them amazing. That’s what makes this book amazing.
The story flows evenly and flawlessly from one strange encounter to another. Depending on your temperament, you may absolutely want to live in that small apartment building or want to avoid it at all costs. It’s a great ride, though.
When I read this book I felt like I knew these people, like they were my neighbors and this was my town and wanted to keep reading to find out more!!! Excellent job Kevin! I can’t wait to read your next novel! Sincerely! Amy Deprey
Tom Tibbets has lost his home, his wife and even his dog, and he starts life over as a reporter for a small-town newspaper in New Hampshire. ‘Aliens, Drywall, and Unicycles’ is the whimsical and often moving story of Tom’s seeking to define his life as he comes to understand the eccentric occupants of his apartment building. Among the cast is a woman who believes in alien visits, an autodidact with a weakness for outdated hippy expressions, a survivalist couple, a man who goes everywhere on a unicycle, and a pair of hermit brothers with a weakness for dynamite. And that’s just the beginning. The novel is above all a study of the strengths and weakness of each of these characters and how Tom reacts to them, at first taken aback, later accepting. Things move slowly as we learn more about each character in turn and more about how he or she affects Tom’s outlook on life. A shattering event two-thirds of the way through the novel changes everyone’s life and forces Tom to come to grips with who he is and what he wants. The writing is smooth, and the dialogue is clean, believable, and often fun. A good read.
The entire cast of characters are quirky in realistic depth that fascinates without heavy backstory. The flow of the book is like riding a light white-water, the style a bit reminiscent of Douglas Adams. I found myself laughing out loud, feeling genuine sadness, and finding new appreciation and understanding for my generation. It’s now a personal favorite and I recommend it highly.
My Recommendation Just finished the debut novel from Kevin St. Jarre entitled “Aliens, Drywall, and a Unicycle”. And about the only real criticism I would have of this delightful book is the title, which I fear will make some think It is some kind of Sci-Fi book (Nothing wrong with that genre, but….) and keep them from picking it up and giving it a chance. Rather than being about aliens (well, maybe a little), this is a very lovely book about very real and imperfect and instantly engaging people living in a small apartment complex in a small New England town. They are each quirky and unique and, have created a community that our outsider narrator Tom encounters first as subjects for his articles as a new reporter for the local news weekly. But quickly he is enfolded into their stories and becomes one of them and part of the story himself. As a reader, I was immediately rooting for almost all of these people. There is the self destructive Brynn who appears damaged beyond salvation. And Marie, who is probably crazy with her talk of aliens but has no self consciousness about her beliefs. Ben is a pot smoking slacker whose schizophrenic friend Miguel was, for me, the heart of the group. Rich and Becky are the abrasive evangelical couple who pop in and out between their RV travels but carry their own secrets. Vegan Winnie, who seems somewhat aloof when we meet her may be the glue that holds the bunch together. And then there are the drywall hanging brothers Mike and Matt’s whose secret hobby creates a tragedy for the entire group. And finally the mysterious Hitch who… well, just read the book and find out. This was really a delightful read. I finished it in just two days. It was that engaging. Your world won’t be changed by it, but it might give you a reason to stop and have a chat with your neighbors. You might just learn something about yourself in doing so.
In this beautifully and imaginatively crafted novel, the protagonist, Tom, takes a newspaper writing job in mill-town-turned-college-town, Portage, New Hampshire. As he settles into Portage, the quirky tenants in his run-down apartment building surprise him out of his apathy, drawing him into their intrigues and sharing with him their obsessions, their hobbies, their intrigues, and their worldviews. With amusing and deft dialogue, a spare and elegant story line, and an allegorical bent, ALIENS, DRYWALL, AND A UNICYCLE is a delightful novel. I read it in a few hours, straight through, totally hooked.