When I finished Eliot Treichel’s A Series of Small Maneuvers, I cried. Okay, that may be overstating it. My eyes misted and I sniffed quite a bit. A few tears were shed. I gave the book to my fiancé when he asked what was wrong and told him to read the last few paragraphs. He did, and handed the book to me with a nod when he finished. “Good ending,” he said. “It’s so real.”
While reading Small Maneuvers, that was the thing that struck me most: how real it was. Treichel characterized the narrator, Emma, so thoroughly that I could hear her voice while I read. She’s not the only character with top-notch characterization, though; her father, who dies in an accident (chill out, we learn that from the back copy), had many different dimensions. He was not glorified or remembered as a faultless being after his death, as some individuals are. Instead, Treichel gives him flaws and reminds us of them throughout the novel. Emma loves her father, but that love is complicated and nuanced as it would be in real life. She looks to him for advice and support, but thinks he can be too overbearing. He loves his family but can be self-centered. He would be a perfect caricature of a modern tree hugger—concerned for the environment, disgusted with consumerism, infatuated by exploration and self-actualization—but he’s far from a perfect person. That said, he is a perfect character.
Treichel writes excellent dialogue, too. Here are some lines from chapter 26:
“What’s the name of that one kind of fish,” I asked instead, trying to distract her, “the one you don’t want here?”
“There’s a couple,” she said.
“More than a couple,” Dan said, climbing up to the oars.
[…] “Is one of them tilapia?” I asked.
“Yep,” [Alex] said. “Do you know those?”
“They’re the ones for fish tacos, right?”
Dan laughed at that. “They do make good tacos.”
The dialogue, like the characters, feels so very real. I can picture this conversation actually happening. Some may think the dialogue is uninteresting or understated, but it’s true to life and convincing.
There was only one aspect of the book that I didn’t like, and that was something Treichel had no control over: the interior design of the book. The margins are incorrect; they’re even on the top and bottom, with no extra room given to the page numbers. Additionally—and this is a weird thing to complain about—the indentations of the paragraphs are not even. It’s hard to explain without pointing in the physical book, but when a new paragraph starts with a quotation mark (as in dialogue), the first line will be closer to the margin. It’s nitpicky, but it makes the book stand out from other books.
I love the content of this book but dislike the layout of the book. Content receives a 5/5 and layout receives 3/5 for an average of 4/5.