Joe Pernice | It Feels So Good When I Stop (Riverhead Books)

book_pernice2.jpgThe characters are so well-draw and, even despite their flaws, endearing.

 

 

Yes,

that

Joe Pernice, he of indie rock band The Pernice Brothers. Though

It Feels So Good When I Stop

is his first published work of fiction, he has previously written a collection of poetry and a novella for the 33 1/3 series, a recollection on the Smiths entitled

Meat Is Murder

(reviewed in this very publication by this very writer).

Feels So Good tells the tale of a nameless narrator, returned home to Cape Cod to hide out in his soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law’s home and nurse his wounded heart. Just the day before he’d married his longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend, Jocelyn, then ultimately realized it was a relationship that wouldn’t work. Or was it? He isn’t sure.

The book alternates between present-day action (or, frequently, inaction) and the backstory of his relationship with Jocelyn. She’s headstrong and well-defined; in other words, she knows who she is. Of their initial meeting Pernice writes, "When I met Jocelyn I knew within minutes I was going to either marry her or completely destroy my life trying. It never occurred to me that both things could happen."

They meet under less-than-ideal circumstances; Jocelyn is called to the apartment shared by our narrator and his crude friend Richie, to pick up a friend who has had a one-night-stand with the roommate. She makes perfectly clear her feelings toward Richie, yet when the narrator spots her the next day on the street, they strike up a halting conversation during which she tells him she will soon be moving to New York. That may or may not be the impetus for their hasty romance, though he makes it his objective to win her over enough so that she won’t leave town. He mostly succeeds on the first goal and fails outright on the second. Eventually, of course, he has to move to New York to be with her, but it’s not his town, and he knows it. He never comes to see the Big Apple as his home…nor, as an extension of the city, Jocelyn.

His present-day staying for free at his sister’s former house comes with a price: Shirking his parenting duties, brother-in-law James frequently asks him to babysit his two-year-old nephew, Roy—and to not tell his sister he is doing so, of course, lest James appear less than the ideal father during his scheduled time with his son. Our hero is, of course, reluctant to assume such a hefty responsibility; he can, after all, barely take care of himself. As you might expect, he comes to enjoy his time with his nephew, an experience that, naturally, helps him to grow.

A side story of a messy affair with a neighbor balanced against the Jocelyn back story shows that, although our narrator is coming to terms with the truth about his relationship—or, rather, lack thereof—with his estranged wife, he is at least trying to move forward…even if he is failing. His repeated attempts to contact Jocelyn meet with frustration; this time, perhaps, it truly is over.

Throughout Feels So Good, Pernice’s writing is fresh, believable and addictive. The characters are so well-draw and, even despite their flaws, endearing; this is one book you won’t want to put down. Pernice perfectly captures the voice of the young and disillusioned male, complete with the crude ribbing the guys give each other and an unflinching portrayal of sex. He paints a beautiful yet severely flawed portrait of Jocelyn, the idealized mess. And, ultimately, the ending feels both absolutely necessary and wanting. Wanting more; that’s the only end for a perfectly captivating story. | Laura Hamlett

 

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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