Hit And Run by John Freeman

Hunh. So I don’t know very much about the author, but I get the distinct feeling that I would have appreciated this novella a lot more if I did.

Hit And Run begins with the titular violent act, as witnessed by our narrator John Frederick and his friends Louise and Brian. John sticks around to give his story to the cops, then goes home to his wife Linda. The next morning, he finds the offending vehicle by happenstance and calls it in. Feeling like he’s really helped smoothe the way for justice, he’s shocked that the process of finding the perpetrator and trying him in court is taking so dang long. It’s even more of a shock when he realizes that the victim was someone with ties to his own family.

At about the same time, his marriage to Linda begins to unravel. They’d been together since college, but only felt spurred to marry by 9/11, in addition to the impetus of his mother’s slowly deteriorating health. Linda has recently started looking for a cure for her own mental issues in expensive gym training, while John stays up late writing, sometimes in cafes and bars. The deterioration of their relationship forms an imperfect parallel with the court proceedings, as the police are unable to locate the hit and run driver even as the assistant district attorney slowly, painstakingly builds the state’s case against him.

While I absolutely picked up this book because it’s a short read, I thought it could genuinely benefit from a little more writing. It’s labeled as a noir but I felt like the crime bits took a decided backseat to the wounded emotional heart of the book. And that’s fine! The dissolution of a marriage can make for very interesting reading, but I felt that the comparison to the hit and run and its aftermath was too often strained. I think writing it out a little more would have helped. I get that the numbness is meant to be part of the point, but the subsequent flowering and healing of the narrator’s emotions still seemed trapped in ice, giving the back half of the story a detached air at odds with the content.

John Freeman is an essayist and poet, editor and critic. This is, I believe, his first foray into fiction. It skews literary — understandably given his background — and thus feels like something handspun and delicate. That suits the slice of life feeling of the marriage story but less so the noir. It is, however, fascinating to read through this debut, knowing even better must come.

Hit And Run by John Freeman was published April 10 2024 by Everand.

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