Charlie Suisman’s debut novel Arnold Falls tells the story of the eponymous (and fictional) upstate New York hamlet and its quirky residents as they find love (or rather it finds them) while they endeavor to do what’s right for their community.
Chief among the citizens of Arnold Falls is Jeebie, a voiceover artist who intended to settle there with his then-boyfriend—he lost the boyfriend, but kept the house. When Jeebie isn’t helping his friend Jenny campaign for mayor, he’s pulled into a variety of zany misadventures, whether it’s rescuing a prize turkey from a diva celebrity chef or helping protest a proposed factory that threatens the local way of life.
Jeebie isn’t looking for love, but Will, a charming volunteer firefighter, has him reconsidering (and neurotically second-guessing his considerations). His other friends are also longtime singles. Nelle, a social worker with the voice of a Motown singer, isn’t really looking (although she might find love anyway with a member of an improbably attractive circus family), and Bridget endearingly falters in her own budding romance, first with a misunderstanding concerning a demonstration of pickpocketing skill (she prefers “sleight of hand artist”) and later by way of food poisoning. These are just two of Jeebie’s memorable accomplices.
This is a character-driven story, as funny as it is cozy. Suisman’s dialogue has the staccato rhythm and studied verisimilitude of a veteran playwright, furnishing wit to a cast that’s instantly likable. And his knack for description is impressive. Referring to the town judge, he writes: “His owlish profile, bracketed by two tufts of side hair, gives him an air of gravity reinforced by a squint-scowl-and-peer, calibrated over decades, capable of freeze-framing gasbag lawyers and unruly defendants.”
Arnold Falls has the feel of an instant classic, with shades of Richard Russo and T.C. Boyle but a sweetness and optimism that sets it apart. Charming, delightful, and endless fun, the novel is a considerable achievement from a noteworthy new talent.
Also available as an ebook.