There’s no beauty in this collection of short stories. Instead, they reveal a harsh people, living in a harsh environment. There’s nothing kind in the characters. Not in the way men treat women and boys, not in the way boys treat each other, and as they grow to manhood, the way they treat other people according to the lessons learned in childhood.
It is the multiple threads woven through this set of short stories that draw each narrative back to the center – the dysfunctional family of Relles “Manito” Ortiz. Achingly hard work, poverty, violence, unfaithfulness, drugs and alcohol form the basis of the family dynamics.
The elders of the family share their gambling, their alcohol, and their drugs with the children, to teach them how to “be men.” The weaknesses and addictions of the men recounting their history color the stories they share with the younger generations. Family interaction boils down to sharing drugs and alcohol, having sex with forgettable and easy women, fighting with others and among themselves, while denying the reality of their harsh lives.
When the author writes, “Things like that were always happening to us” you understand that each generation to come will continue to allow that history to shape their lives, rather than changing the way they think and behave. The threads lived in the past will only draw tighter and closer, until the pattern is permanently set in the cloth of their lives for as long as the Ortiz family survives.
In the beginning, Manito’s search for some connection with his “dead-meat” father leads him to beg his Tio Neto for family stories. In the end, Manito abandons his wife and child as his mother abandoned him, yet mourns that his daughter is lost to him. He doesn’t seem to realize that because he has never fought to break the threads of the Ortiz family patterns, his Belle will grow up with that same empty place in her soul that he has endured his entire life.
The cover art for The House of Order slaps you in the face just as this collection does. At first, I couldn’t make a connection between the art and the stories. By the time I reached the end of my second reading, I realized the cover was brilliant. Just as the choices each character makes flays the flesh from any hope of breaking the threads of dysfunction, and cheap weed becomes the backdrop of nearly every family interaction, this cover portrays the bare-bones, chokingly empty struggle of the lives of the family Ortiz.
These snippets of family history deserve a novel. The characters call out for more flesh, begging for a chance to reveal the hidden pain walling them into the places their choices have brought them to. John Paul Jaramillo’s lean writing cuts straight to the reader’s heart, echoing the cold, hard land inhabited by his characters. In his description of places and people, you wilt under the hot sun, drag through the thick black mud, smell the dirt and neglect in the houses, feel the swift, harsh blows delivered by the hard hands of big men, and smell the stench of alcohol on their breath.
You’ll look for the salvation in this collection of stories. It has yet to be written.
Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:
Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of The House of Order? Well, there are two ways to enter…
- Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official House of Order tour page.
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I’ve posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the official House of Order tour page–either way works just as well.
About the author: John Paul Jaramillo grew up in Southern Colorado but now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Oregon State University and, currently, holds the position of Associate Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College. Connect with John Paul on his website, Facebook, Twitter or GoodReads.