EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 16, 2014

'The Last Time I Died' hooks readers with darkness, desperation

“The Last Time I Died”

by Joe Nelms

c. 2014, Tyrus Books $16.99; 255 pages

One minute at a time.

That’s how you get through a rough patch in your life. You breathe, then take another breath. Watch the clock tick in a circle. And then you do it again because, though it sounds trite, time really is your friend.

Or, as in the new novel, “The Last Time I Died” by Joe Nelms, time is what gets you to despair in the first place.

Lisa hadn’t wanted a divorce. Christian Franco had to at least admit that.

She had, in fact, begged him to go to therapy, to do something to get over his past so they could move forward together. But when a man witnessed his father killing his mother thirty years ago, when the man was just an eight-year-old… well, what was there to say to a therapist that hadn’t already been said?

And the truth was, Christian couldn’t remember anything before that night. Not a thing. His first memories were of being in foster care, of the psychologist who raped him, of knowing that he was a burden to Foster Mother. Why dredge that stuff up?

And so, with Lisa out of his life and his house, Christian spent his nights getting drunk and picking fights with random strangers in local bars, hoping that either alcohol or a thorough beating might feel good.

A nice butt-kicking was what he lived for.

Until he died for it.

Those first minutes in the hospital were odd: everything was black, then white, and his memories “whooshed” backward until an eight-year-old Christian saw his mother’s bagged corpse, and began to re-live his father’s hand-cuffed departure from their brownstone.

And then he was revived.

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