Book Reviews: The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello

Trigger Warning: This novel deals with abusive and controlling relationships, a grieving parent, and self-harm. If you or a loved one have suffered through an abusive/controlling relationship, the loss of a child, and/or self-harm, proceed with caution.

Grab some tissues for this one. Today I’m reviewing The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello. Spiritual, inspirational, and modern, I haven’t been so emotionally affected by a book since Flowers for Algernon. In fact, Marcello’s book has affected me more, making me sad and hating certain people but also inspiring me and making me hopeful for the future.

Image retrieved from Amazon
The Beauty of the Fall follows Dan Underlight, an engineer and co-founder of RadioRadio, as he copes with being fired and the lingering guilt and sorrow from the loss of his son. As he comes to grips with losing his job, Dan undergoes multiple life-altering events: he finds new love in poet and advocate for women’s rights Willow, embarks on a pilgrimage to Fortune 500 companies across the U.S., and initiates a startup directed at changing the world, ConversationWorks. Yet every time Dan’s life appears to get better, something goes wrong. Sometimes his troubles stem from forces outside of his control, and other times they result from his own self-destructive behavior. In both cases, the universe seems bent on thwarting Dan’s efforts—or, perhaps, it’s trying to teach him a lesson about life. With the help of friends, colleagues, his therapist Nessa, and the guiding spirit of his dead son, will Dan finally get and keep his life on track? Will he ever discover what it takes to make him feel genuinely happy and fulfilled?

Marcello explores a unique twist on an increasingly-popular story, i.e. how successful companies come about and thrive in the tech industry. Rather than following a company that started when computers and mobile phones were still in their infancy—which he could have done with RadioRadio—Marcello follows an engineer trying to rewrite his place in the world and start a company which challenges both technological limits and the moral grounds of big business. I rooted for Dan the entire time and every curve-ball thrown at him made me want his happiness even more.

Mind you, Dan is no saint. He’s a workaholic and a hypocrite as well as incredibly self-destructive. I often wished I could shake his shoulders and snap him out of it. Nevertheless, I understood his actions and emotions and, much like Nessa and his friends, wanted to help him.

The cast of characters are diverse and relate-able. The only characters I had a problem with were Olivia and Jason, but not because they were poorly written. Quite the opposite. Marcello depicts them as real human beings but, at the same time, has readers wondering when the shoe will drop if these two are around. I despised these characters as people and feel that Dan maintains his composure around them much better than I would have.

The relationships among Dan, his lovers, his friends, and his deceased son become the heart of the book, even more so than his technological/business ventures. They have their ups and downs; Dan makes stupid mistakes and acknowledges them and appropriate rifts occur, but closure occurs. I felt such an emotional investment in their lives that when things fell short of the best-case scenario—which, realistically, was often—I empathized strongly with all involved.

The most satisfying relationship is between Dan and Zack, Dan’s deceased son, even after Zack’s premature death. It’s sweet and sad but, most of all, fulfilling. It serves as a prime example of our loved ones staying with us even after they have died.

Marcello breaks up the pain and growth with humor and times of joy. As I read the novel, I felt that I was more than reading a book; I was experiencing this man’s life with him. Marcello lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly of Dan and leaves his readers to either judge him or empathize with him, or a little of both.

Rich Marcello: author, poet, creative writing teacher

Image retrieved from Amazon

If you don’t want a book that makes you think and feel simultaneously, The Beauty of the Fall is not for you. If you don’t want to engage with liberal viewpoints or face the harsh realities behind productive conversation, this book is really not for you. For me, it’s nearly perfect, the bittersweet and engaging read I didn’t know I needed.

This novel handles many hot-button issues, including corporate greed, self-harm, and domestic violence against women. While traveling to Fortune 500 companies, Dan encounters struggling U.S. citizens, namely workers in Detroit who can’t afford water and a millennial in Northern California who’s down on his luck. The driving force behind the plot, ConversationWorks, rounds out the list with the incredibly controversial issue of climate change.

The final chapter becomes rather preachy, more so than the rest of the book, and depicts a future which is the most optimistic vision for the future I’ve encountered in well over a year. I wish change could be initiated as easily in real life as it is in the book. Of course, there’s always the possibility that it could be. Dan’s whole purpose behind ConversationWorks is to start productive, worldwide conversations on today’s top issues. Perhaps that concept is not unrealistic; we only need our own ConversationWorks.

The narrative also slips into a fair amount of exposition, especially in the final chapter. Still, Marcello utilizes this exposition and the aforementioned preachy-ness to the story’s advantage. It left me sad but uplifted and inspired.

Tiny grammatical errors appear throughout the book but not very often. If I weren’t hyper-aware of such details, I may not have even noticed them. They did not detract from the novel’s overall quality.

I highly recommend Rich Marcello’s The Beauty of the Fall. I have a lot to think about, both personal and big-picture. Writers, artists, engineers, creative people of all disciplines will appreciate Dan’s vision and those looking for spiritual relief will find a release in following his struggles.

If you’d like to read The Beauty of the Fall, you can follow the ad below and buy it on Amazon.

Marcello is also offering a chance for his readers to give back to the community. He’s donating the first $25,000 in profits from The Beauty of the Fall to Bridges, an organization which helps domestic violence victims. For more information and to donate to this worthy cause, please follow this link to the donation page.

For more information on The Beauty of the Fall, Rich Marcello, and his other works, check out his website.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

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