Daniel Taylor, Do We Not Bleed? (Eugene, OR: Slant, 2017).
I have a big problem with Daniel Taylor’s new “Jon Mote Mystery,” as the cover describes Do We Not Bleed? To wit: A book this good should have a sequel ready for me to take up once I’ve put this one down. Unfortunately, fans of Taylor’s (now) two novels about Jon and his sister Judy will just have to wait for (what I hope to be) a third novel in the not-too-distant future.
Do We Not Bleed? follows the events of Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, Taylor’s first book in this series. (Does a pair constitute a series?) Jon has begun to recover from the psychological wounds he was experiencing in the first book. He has become an employee at New Directions, a care facility for developmentally disabled and cognitively impaired persons at which his older sister Judy, who has Downs Syndrome, lives.
Most of the novel focuses on the ups and downs of living with the people Jon has come to call “Specials” (as opposed to “Normals”). He—that is Jon, in whose voice Daniel Taylor writes —humanizes his charges in a way that had me laughing and crying, empathizing with their plight, and gaining a new critical perspective on the way “Normals” think and talk about and act toward “Specials.” Hint: We “Normals,” who are far less normal and far more special than we often think, too often treat our fellow humans as problems to be solved rather than as “friends” to be loved and loved by. That is, in my opinion, the most critical insight of this wise, deeply humane book.
How badly we treat “Specials” becomes especially apparent when one of the New Directions residents is murdered, and one of Jon’s charges is blamed. Jon, Judy, and company know their friend is innocent, but the evidence seems stacked up against that person, at least stacked high enough to move them to a locked-facility for the criminally insane—though without trial. Resolving this case becomes Jon’s and Judy’s and friends’ mission. I’ll let you read Do We Not Bleed? to find out the result.
Daniel Taylor writes beautifully, his characters are interesting, he wears his humanity on his sleeve, and—like I said above—the only shame is that there isn’t already a sequel to this beautiful novel that I can begin reading today.
As a series reader, I encourage you to pick up Death Comes for the Deconstructionist before you read Do We Need Bleed? It’s an excellent novel on its own right, but it provides the background to this story. So, read it first!
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