Brian Eykolt’s debut novel, “From the Bottom of the Bay,” is an intense journey through injustice capable of corrupting the victim beyond recognition. There are some signs of this being his first work, and the edition I read needed a better proofread, but overall, Eykolt has created a darkly enjoyable page-turner worth checking out.
Alexa struggles to understand what happened to her perfect life. One day she’s a respected socialite with the right boyfriend attending a prestigious school. The next she’s desperately struggling to keep a roof over her head on the relatively meager earnings of a San Francisco shipyard worker. Desperation leads her into the unsavoury world of international smuggling, where she must apply all her intelligence to outwit and outlive the villains who employ her.
To enjoy this novel, a reader must be willing to overlook the unlikelihood that a girl of Alexa’s background would wind up working at a San Francisco shipyard. It seems a rather significant suspension of disbelief required for the foundation of the story. Once the reader is past that, however, the extreme transformation Alexa undergoes to survive her new, harsh reality seems both necessary and realistic. Eykolt is not afraid to show how far desperate people can go in order to not just endure but, thrive.
One could argue Eykolt employs a reversal of gender stereotypes in his leading characters. Early in the book, both male leads appear ridiculously naive and simple, whereas the female leads are somewhat jaded, and infinitely wiser to the ways of the world around them. Although the exaggeration of oafishness can be difficult to digest, starting out with such a low baseline does make character growth much more evident. I found I did enjoy the contrast between innocently ignorant optimism and the devious ruthlessness of underworld experience, despite the exaggeration. Also, as the male characters developed, they became more balanced and realstic in their behaviors and reactions.
Typical of a digital edition, there are a number of proofreading errors that can cause the reader to have to reread a sentence a time or two in order to determine what the author meant to say, but though such moments always detract from a story, they were mostly fairly minor in this work.
Overall, I enjoyed Eykholt’s first novel and consider it worth checking out, especially if you enjoy exploring themes around how “normal” people can spiral away from respectability when subject to certain pressures.
Amanda King – November 9, 2019
Originally published on Reedsy Discovery
E-book provided by Reedsy Discovery for review purposes.