Better You Go Home ($13.95, 236 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-170-5), is the first novel by Seattle writer and writing instructor Scott Driscoll. While visiting the Czech Republic in search of his half-sister, a critically ill American man unearths long-buried family secrets.
WINNER of the Foreword Firsts Award for Debut Fiction:
5 Stars: “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…. 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.” Read more …..
—Karen Rigby, Foreword Magazine
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“Moving, powerful, and compulsively readable, Better You Go Home is the unforgettable story of a man’s journey to save his own life, and how he discovers himself along the way.”
—Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
Oct. 2nd – Book Launch at Richard Hugo House – 7:00 pm
Oct 19th – Puyallup Library 100 year celebration – authors signing event 6-8 pm
324 South Meridian, Puyallup, WA 98371
Nov. 13th – Third Place Bookstore – 7:00 pm
17171 Bothell Way NE Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
Nov. 15th – University Bookstore – 7:00 pm
4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA
Nov. 22nd – Leavenworth Library 6:00 – 8:00pm
700 US Highway 2 / Leavenworth, WA 98826
Nov. 23rd – A Book for All Seasons Bookstore, Leavenworth – 1:00 -3:00pm
703 Highway 2, Leavenworth, WA 98826
“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 …. Driscoll provides his readers with a tremendous, powerful opening that’s powerful, ironically, because it’s so very quiet. It begins in a simple church, Chico (the protagonist searching for his long lost half sister) is with Milada (who we learn is a doctor who, even though she’s medically trained, still believes in medical mysteries) and they’re discussing the power of ‘Bambino’ (a statue with some sort of miraculous ability to cure the ill)…which is so odd when it’s juxtaposed against the fact that Chico doesn’t seem all that interested in the notion of a ‘faith based’ cure for his (what will eventually be fatal) renal failure due to diabetes. Just as the title spoke to me with that heavy accent – I can hear Milada’s heavily accented voice – even though Driscoll doesn’t intentionally write in ‘how she sounds’. Rather he does it through the way she says things in English – which obviously isn’t her first language. In those First 500 words the reader is drawn into the story of ‘how’ Chico’s sister became ‘long lost’ (especially since he didn’t even know about her until about a year earlier). We can almost hear his impatience with Milada because he really wants to just get on with the job of finding his sister and yet they’re in that church. So odd, so ‘old world’ – So good!” Read more ….
–L. Avery Brown, The Magnolia Blossom Review
“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 …. 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.” Read more ….
—Theresa Rose, author of Golden River
“Scott Driscoll delivers. His debut novel has the pace of a thriller and the grace of a literary novel. Although international in scope, the story has an intimate quality and it captivates our hearts.”
—Bharti Kirchner, author of Darjeeling and Tulip Season.
“You can call this an immigrant story, a medical thriller and a tale of love. Driscoll keeps all the scenes tight, the action coming and details to the need to know. You are taken back behind the fallen Iron Curtain and the ghosts that still live and breathe there, which are all based off Driscoll’s own experiences from visiting this part of the world. The subplots don’t distract but draw you deeper into the storyline itself. If you are a fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you may want to pick this novel up as well.”
—Virginia Grenier, The World of Ink Network
“Like the big Russian novels that gave us moral philosophy, this book raises the deepest questions about freedom and captivity, identity and place. Chico, a middle-aged Seattle lawyer in need of a kidney, vows to use his medical leave to find his half-sister, who was left behind in the old country when his father fled the Nazis with another man’s wife. Chico’s doctors in the US want more tests before they will grant him a transplant, but he’s in Prague where tracing one’s family tree isn’t a popular preoccupation if it raises questions about what people did to survive the Soviet Bloc. Better You Go Home is at once an immigrant story, a medical thriller, and a tale of love. Driscoll keep all the skeins taut in his hand.”
—Kathryn Trueblood, author of The Baby Lottery and winner of the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction
“Scott Driscoll’s account of one man’s struggle to overcome death by leaving the Pacific Northwest to find his half-sister in the Czech Republic is full of intrigue and illicit love against the backdrop of Eastern Europe’s tragic history. A fine tale with a most satisfying finish.”
—Caleb Powell, author of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel (forthcoming from Knopf, 2014)
“A tale of a Quester in a Wasteland, led by a beauteous guide, his ominous path blocked by twin Dragons. One dragon is exterior, the Omnipresent State wielding the ugly gray weight of the Iron Curtain; the other is interior, the Quester’s deadly disease, a genetic curse that can only be lifted by grafting on a sacred body part—one that matches, one that won’t kill you—plucked from the body of a family member. Better You Go Home is a taut tale of irony, sadness, bleak romance, and man’s fate.”
—Robert J. Ray, author of the Matt Murdock Mysteries
“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.’ ”
—Jack Remick, author of Blood, Gabriela and the Widow, and the California Quartet series
“Compelling, unnerving, full of insight … In this odyssey of an American trying to find his past and save his life, we’re taken back behind the fallen Iron Curtain and the ghosts that still live and breathe there. Terse with poetry, broad in history (and heart), and with all the suspense of an Eastern Block espionage thriller. Driscoll delivers.”
—Layne Maheu, author of Song of the Crow
“Better You Go Home is a haunting tale of how a diabetic’s quest for a new kidney uncovers dark secrets about his family as well as himself.”
—Nicholas O’Connell, author of The Storms of Denali
“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.”
—Mindy Halleck, author of Romance & Money – 12 Conversations Every Couple Should Have
Seattle attorney Chico Lenoch wonders why his Czech father refuses to contact family left behind the Iron Curtain. Searching through his father’s attic after the Velvet Revolution, Chico discovers letters dated four decades earlier revealing the existence of a half-sister. He travels to the Czech Republic to find his forgotten sister and unearth the secrets his father has buried all these years.
There is self-interest behind Chico’s quest. Most urgently, he is nearing kidney failure and needs a donor organ. None of his relatives are a suitable match. Could his sister be a candidate? Chico also meets Milada, a beautiful doctor who helps him navigate the obstacles to finding his sister. While Chico idealizes his father’s homeland, Milada feels trapped. Is she really attracted to him, or is he a means of escape to the United States?
Chico confronts a moral dilemma as well. If he approaches his sister about his need for a kidney, does he become complicit with his father and the Big Shots of that generation who’ve already robbed her of so much?
Says Driscoll, “A parish priest in Iowa, a Czech relative who’d grown up on the dark side of the Iron Curtain, solemnly shook my hand upon returning the letters I’d asked him to translate, and said: ‘You have what you came for. Please do not trouble me again with this.’ There had been a suicide, a child who could not be traced, a sudden departure. This visit to the priest happened in 1994, not long after the Velvet Revolution. I went to Prague that fall, found my family’s village in eastern Bohemia. Relatives occupying the family farmhouse remembered the former residents. They had some stories, some questions of their own. Walking through that village, I began to speculate. What became of the unidentified child? What if my life had deployed on her side of the Iron Curtain? Once that question lodged in my psyche, like a small wound that wouldn’t heal, I knew that I had to write this story.”
Scott Driscoll, an award-winning instructor (the University of Washington, Educational Outreach award for Excellence in Teaching in the Arts and Humanities 2006), holds an MFA from the University of Washington and has been teaching creative writing for the University of Washington Extension for seventeen years. Click here to find Driscoll on the Web.
Watch a YouTube Interview with Scott Driscoll:
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Milada’s flat is on the eighth floor of a twelve-story high rise in a gray sidlisté of concrete block buildings. The street curb is dammed by defunct Skodas, the no-frills tin-can cars manufactured locally. The security mesh screening the outer door is rusted and dented. This is the depressing Khrushchev-era flat Milada is forced to continue calling home so that her husband could afford that Russian mafia loan. Okay, it’s not lost on me that I’m taking risks, possibly for no better reason than to salvage my own father’s dignity. Or my own. Still, Jiři goes too far. How is his pride any different than that of his father’s?
She pushes the buzzer on the intercom panel to alert Jiři to our arrival. Jiři’s family name is listed on the panel. Her name is Kotyza. Her grandfather was related to my grandmother. Most lights behind the buttons on the panel are burnt out. I avoid looking at hers. I don’t want to see if they’ve troubled themselves to replace the bulb behind their buttons anymore than I want to think of Milada stuck here for the forseeable future.
We bounce in the elevator up to the eighth floor and walk down a corridor with cracked and missing tiles. A decorative strip of plaster above the tile, painted the color of mustard, has browned with grime. And the smells. Sour cabbage, urine, acrid tobacco. Nose wrinkling neglect has turned this passageway into a tableau of the torture I imagine it must have been to raise her family here. No wonder she obsessed over the Skagit, the baldies, the turbulent water. The stinking salmon carcasses on the flood banks must have been ambrosia to her eastern bloc nose.
Prague is earning a reputation as the world’s black market capital for illegal organs. I know this, but I did not anticipate Dr. Saudek’s insinuation—as he shoved me away from the shores of Prague this afternoon—that this was the reason I’ve come paddling into his little harbor.
Milada insisted that we phone Blue Cross tonight and request an extension. Jiři’s black-light troupe—he’s their business manager—is performing at a local theater after dinner. She wants us to attend his show. She admits she is proud of her husband’s participation in the revolution. She will always love him for this.
In the entryway to her flat we exchange shoes for slippers. Blinds cover the windows, an old precaution to prevent paranoid neighbors from spying, a habit she admits she finds hard to break. Curious—can’t help it—I lift a blind. In a littered lot between buildings is a rusty, partly collapsed play gym. All the reason I’d need to keep the blinds closed. Her dark furniture includes a massive armoire for coats and shoes and a credenza filled with the obligatory leaded crystal. Nothing in the details says Milada. Where does she keep her details? Following her to the kitchen, I ponder the degree to which the details we surround ourselves with ought to reflect our desires. To what extent does a paucity of details reflect self denial? My father kept his details in the basement. That amber bowl he flicked his cigar ashes into. The starched white undershirts, the ironed Union work pants. The bar of Ivory soap at the sink he brushed his teeth with, in the early days, when he still thought and acted like an emigrant. That stack of quarters, weekly replenished, that I was forbidden to touch. I liked to think they were savings kept from Mom in order to send money overseas to Anezka. What do those details say about him? That he was caught between worlds, a man whose heart desired a world that was in his past, that he longed for pointlessly? But he was kind. Those quarters, I’m convinced, were more than just beer and cigar money.
In the kitchen, her husband winces at my broad-voweled American accent when I politely return his “dobrý den.” Jiři is a short man with an athletic build through the chest and thighs. With his pale eyes, sandy brows, sandy hair cropped conservatively short, he looks more handsomely like the Olympic skater he once was than a revolutionary. You’d expect to see his face on a Wheaties box, not on a prison mugshot. Their fifteen year old son, Martin, takes my jacket. His hair is jelled into neon pink and green Mohawk spikes. Milada tells me he is crazy about Seattle grunge. I gave him a Nirvana disc and a Walkman to play it in—he’s on his own for the batteries. Do I want coffee? he asks. I explain that I’d love it but it’s a problem of fluid retention; I have to measure intake. Then I decide why not, I’m going right back home anyway. Why not enjoy the little time I do have here?