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Phantom Limbs


Phantom Limbs

With her debut novel, PHANTOM LIMBS, Paula Garner, delivers a well-written story about a teenage boy coming to terms with the past and dealing with repressed memories that are just resurfacing.

Otis Mueller has spent the last three years pining after Meg, the girl next door and his first love. They haven’t spoken since she abruptly moved away, shortly after the death of Mason, Otis’s younger brother. So Otis is caught off guard when Meg reaches out to tell him she’s coming back for part of the summer.

"In Otis Garner creates a compelling, first person perspective....The reader can’t help but be sucked into his world and his perspective as he tries to find good in the world again."

But this throws a wrench into the world Otis has created in the wake of Meg’s utter disappearance from his life. The only way he managed to make it through the past few years was thanks to Dara, his sarcastic, one-armed, militant, half-swim coach, half-best friend, whose manic obsession is to turn Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be.

All Otis wants is for things with Meg to go back to the way they were before she left, despite her disappearance, her boyfriend back in California, and Dara’s tail spin as her phantom limb pains worsen. But digging through their past brings up some uneasy truths about his brother’s death, and Meg’s vanishing act, that leave Otis questioning if what he wants, is actually what he needs

Garner deftly handles creating well-rounded characters that are doing the best they can to deal with their traumatic past. They make mistakes, screw up royally, and do some stupid things to cope with their pain. They are flawed, and it is their flaws that make them believable as characters, especially Otis and Dara, which is a large driving force in the novel. Though most of the other characters don’t seem to understand their relationship, the reader will be quick to see why they work so well. They need each other. They came together after their own separate traumas, the loss of a little brother and the loss of a limb, nearly ruins their lives.

Dara’s feisty, quick to anger, aggressive nature plays well off of Otis’s more introverted, quiet, and caring personality. Their dialogue is funny, heartbreaking and engaging, keeping the reader pulled in, and having them saying “okay, just one more chapter."

While Meg at times appears as almost too perfect, even in her confusing break downs, the reader need only remember that they are seeing her through Otis’s eyes, and to him, she is perfect. In Otis, Garner creates a compelling, first person perspective, of an endearing introverted boy, fumbling along through life and doing his best to keep it together in the years after his brother’s death. The reader can’t help but be sucked into his world and his perspective as he tries to find good in the world again.

A book about love, loss, and how we cope with the holes in our lives left behind by trauma, PHANTOM LIMBS is nearly impossible to put down.

Reviewed by Alyssa Cami on September 30, 2016

Phantom Limbs
by Paula Garner