The prose in Al Riske’s first novel, Sabrina’s Window, is clear and simple and elevates the book into something truly wonderful. He’s apparently an advocate of the Iceberg Theory of writing, where what is left unsaid is often more important than what Riske chooses to tell us.
The story revolves around two characters: Joshua (a 17-year old boy) and Sabrina (a 31-year old woman). The book begins when Joshua accidentally breaks the window of Sabrina’s home in Taos, New Mexico. They soon form a somewhat unlikely friendship; platonic, yes, but also with hints that there is a desire on both sides to cross over to something more. Sabrina becomes something of a mentor for Joshua, a guide into the confusing world of adulthood. The book frequently changes perspectives, so in one section you follow Joshua, then Sabrina, then the two together, then Joshua again, etc. I’ve always been a fan of this type of narrative, and it works very well here.
Sabrina’s Window is actually Riske’s second book. His first, Precarious, was a collection of short stories. Like a lot of very good writers, Riske’s work has a distinctive stamp. There is often a young man (really a boy) who struggles as he enters adulthood. He’s often mystified by women. Riske’s young men are typically smart, sincere, interested in writing, and perhaps conflicted when it comes to religion. Ah, but it’s Riske’s women who I find more interesting! They’re strong, independent, often sexually bold, and blessed with razor-sharp intellects. They remind me of the female leads in the romantic comedies from the 1940′s. Riske is clearly a man who loves women, and it comes through in his writing.
So a big thumbs up from me. And I’m definitely looking forward to what Mr. Riske comes up with next.