The inadequacies of the father are visited upon the son in this touching, if uneven, debut. Logan Pyle had been on track to get his American history Ph.D. when his new girlfriend, Julie, got pregnant. Now, five years into their marriage, 36-year-old Logan is a stay-at-home dad to their four-year-old son, Owen, who is having difficulties at his Montessori preschool. Julie, a “knockout” and high-powered lawyer, is consumed by her latest case, and Logan is struggling to preserve his recently deceased father’s legacy, a highly-taxed “rocky rhomboid” on Missoula, Mont.’s Clark Fork Riverfront, the last remaining parcel of privately owned land. When he walks in on Julie kissing another man, Logan snaps, seizing Owen and heading on a journey that forces him to confront lingering elements of his history with his father. Compre-hending the complexities of one’s father through the lens of one’s own imperfect fatherhood is nothing new, but Miller explores Logan’s resentments and insecurities with sensitivity and nuance. The portrayals of young Owen and particularly Julie, however, remain largely flat, leaving readers to wonder whether narrator Logan will ever see his family with as much clarity as he hopes to view his own history. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (June)
"A fast-paced tale of family life."
-- Real Simple
"What a treat to read Miller's whip-smart first novel. Brand New Human Being gripped me with its wry humor and wonderfully real characters, and kept me captivated until the last page. This is a fast-paced, first-rate book by an immensely talented new writer."
“Miller's debut novel tackles the meaning of parenthood in the modern world. Introspective and honest, it focuses on the small dramas inside Everyman's living room: the way all parents strive to be better than they are, the way a marriage can start to fray even with the best intentions, and the way love, however elusive, is always worth fighting for. Miller’s novel is sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always a worthy, exciting read.”
--Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men are Gone
"The strength of BRAND NEW HUMAN BEING is its realistic portrayal of trauma and its aftermath. Death, birth, disease and survival all have their messy consequences in these pages. Miller...is especially good at showing the sloppy nature of relationships in the wake of upheaval."
"Touching...Miller explores Logan’s resentments and insecurities with sensitivity and nuance."
"Miller is at her best in scenes with Logan and Owen together—dad’s brutal honesty with his son about death in general (and Owen’s near-death experience in particular) exposes the depths of his emotional frustration...the first-person-present narration gives the novel a breezy energy. A solid debut..."
Logan Pyle is a frustrated stay-at-home dad who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. He abandoned his Ph.D. dissertation to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Julie, who is now an ambitious lawyer. He is increasingly resentful of his four-year-old son, Owen, who acts like an infant. Plus, Logan has complicated feelings for his father's much-younger widow, Bennie. When he stumbles upon Julie in a compromising situation with another man, Logan loses it, snatching Owen and running off to his dad's rustic cabin in Montana to regroup. One wishes for more description of the Montana setting and a greater emphasis on a side plot involving the mining industry. The ending and Logan's turnaround are abrupt. VERDICT This uneven first novel fits into a subgenre of lad lit: sad dad lit. While Logan's irrational decisions and immaturity seem realistic, not all of his interactions with his son ring true. A recurring theme is Logan's big heart, yet there is not much evidence that he has one. For a humorous, less cynical take on modern fatherhood, read Greg Olear's Fathermucker.—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
A family man is tested by his father's death, his wife's emotional distance and his son's exasperating behavior--and the crush he's nursing on his widowed stepmom isn't helping. As Miller's debut novel opens, narrator Logan Pyle is just barely keeping it together as a stay-at-home dad. His 4-year-old son, Owen, has become increasingly closed-off and rude. His lawyer wife, Julie, is little help, working long hours on a case involving ailing miners. And he's feeling pressured to sell the valuable Montana lakefront land his late father left him. Cue some heavy-handed symbolism (Logan stocking life preservers in a boating shop on the property) and a few scenes driven by Logan's fuming at helicopter moms and wealthy know-it-all dads, and it's clear a crisis is coming. Sure enough, he catches Julie flirting heavily with another man, prompting him to take Owen on an impromptu road trip to visit Bennie, the young widow of Logan's father. The two work through their own history (including a drunken flirtation that went too far) and Logan's crumbling marriage, speeding up a long-avoided reckoning with the past. Miller is at her best in scenes with Logan and Owen together--dad's brutal honesty with his son about death in general (and Owen's near-death experience in particular) exposes the depths of his emotional frustration. The sexual tension between Logan and Bennie is convincing, and the first-person-present narration gives the novel a breezy energy. Even so, stiff moments abound, as when Logan and Owen visit a church and joshingly baptize themselves, and much of the dialogue is earnestly engineered to push the chess pieces into their proper positions. The sense of manipulation increases in the closing pages, which tie the bow in a satisfying but not especially surprising way. A solid debut, though its redemption arc is predictable comfort food.