Luvaas’ leading man, who is also his own worst enemy, is one Tommy Aristophonos, who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child. Because of his affliction, Tommy has been bullied, physically beaten, traumatized and is pretty much insane, a fact that even he recognizes. Tommy is the Biblical Job reincarnated in the modern world. And like Job, whose wife’s advice was to “curse God and die,” i.e. commit suicide, Tommy’s ex-wives were no picnic, either. For that matter, neither is Tommy.
Still, Tommy keeps on keeping on.
Tommy eventually comes across a laptop computer, upon which he begins writing his “anti-memoir,” a genre quite different from the usual memoir, wherein one – usually some famous person, like a movie star – examines the path of one’s life. Tommy’s anti-memoir eschews that kind of drivel as maudlin and sentimental. Tommy’s anti-memoir dispenses with concepts like cause and effect. To Tommy, cause and effect implies volition, a concept he regards with great dollops of dubiety. The leading man of Tommy’s anti-memoir is Volt Hoffstatter, a figure who experiences only success. It’s almost as if Tommy is asserting that success breeds success, while failure breeds failure.
As Tommy’s life moves on, he meets Cleo. Tommy and Cleo bring to mind Nabokov’s Lolita: Tommy is Humbert Humbert and Cleo is Dolores, aka Lolita. Cleo is as different as Tommy is, just in another way. She’s a free spirt who does as she pleases, whereas Tommy would like to do as he pleases, but knows it’s not a viable option; whatever he does just blows up in his face. Still, Cleo is one of the more touching parts of the novel. She is the personification of Love, the love that all human beings yearn for.
Luvaas has a way with words, especially dialogue. His dialogue is crisp and active, which keeps things moving along. And the novel is structured well. But remember, it’s a philosophical novel at heart. And in that sense, it’s almost religious in tenor, asking the question, like Job, “What did I do to deserve such suffering?”. Job, of course, maintained his righteousness, whereas Tommy isn’t sure. His philosophy is summed up in the novel’s final sentence: “There is always hope.”
Beneath the Coyote Hills is a delightful novel and highly recommended.