steady is the fall

Review: Steady is the Fall by Emily Ruth Verona

Steady Is The Fall Cover A few weeks ago, Emily Ruth Verona visited BiblioSmiles to share her thoughts on her first novel, which is set to publish on October 29th.

That first novel is Steady is the Fall, and I was lucky enough to receive an e-copy of Verona’s book in exchange for an honest review.

I’m familiar with Emily’s writing since we took some classes together during our time as undergrads at SUNY Purchase. For those of you who are not familiar with her writing, I find her voice to be accessible, honest, and eloquent. This style carries through the entirety of Steady is the Fall. Every word is important and every sentence is meticulously crafted, making Verona’s work a pleasure to read.

The cover of Verona’s novel evokes feelings of contemplation, and a little bit of unease. I found myself returning to the cover on more than one occasion while reading. (I’m normally all for saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but this cover is really well-matched to its contents.)

Larry used to say death ran in our family. When I would tell him that it ran in everybody’s he’d simply hunch forward, hold up a finger and shake his head. “Not like in ours,” he’d say, “Not like in ours.”

Steady is the Fall follows once-hopeful photographer Holly Dorren in the aftermath of her cousin Larry’s suicide. Larry was Holly’s closest friend, and the two were inseparable since childhood. When the two cousins were young, they were in a severe car accident that caused resentment between their families and ultimately jump-started Larry’s fascination with death. Why had they been spared? What was this thin line that separated living from dead?

As they grew up, Larry continued to fixate on the car accident and the fragility of human life. He attempts to take his own life on multiple occasions, which terrifies his friends and family and puts a strain on his relationships with them all. Holly’s loyalty to Larry is fierce, and she tries very hard to keep a grasp on her cousin.

Hence her brokenness at the start of the novel.

Larry is a central character in Steady is the Fall, yet he only lives in flashbacks and memories. We are only able to see Larry as Holly wants us, as the readers, to see him. Because of this, I found the way I connected to Larry to be an incredibly interesting experience. I felt distanced from him as a character, but I also felt Holly’s acute longing for him, and her defeat of having been left alone.

As a narrator, Holly pulled me into her headspace, and I found it very hard to shake her feelings when I would put the book down for the day. She is reflective, and moody, and numb with her grief. She’s having difficulty coping with her loss, and it affects how she interacts with her family, her friends, and her coworkers. She has little interest in her hobbies or in taking care of herself. She chooses to fixate on things that have little do with her life or her situation – she becomes obsessed with a laundromat that closes after a fire – and there’s something incredibly sad about that. There’s something incredibly real about that, too; Holly’s grief is understandable. Verona writes Holly Dorren’s sadness in a way that is startlingly real: it is raw, and it hurts to look at, but at the same time you can’t look away. This experience is further complicated by the fact that Holly’s nickname growing up is “Holly-full-of-holes.” How much of what she says is true, and how much is a fabrication? A lie?

Steady is the Fall has a handful of strong supporting characters. Holly’s relationship with Bryan, one of Larry’s college roommates, is fraught with drama and tension. Her relationship with her own brother, a seemingly-directionless young man taking on a big responsibility, was also incredibly interesting to me. I found Holly’s interactions with others to be intriguing, as they offered a glimpse of Holly outside of her own head: out in the world of the living.

Steady is the Fall is a quiet, yet powerful debut. I urge you to add the novel to your Goodreads list or pre-order it through Black Rose Writing.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

My First Novel: Steady is the Fall

[Editor’s Note: Readers! I’m so excited to share that Emily, a BiblioSmiles contributor and a fellow Purchase creative writing alum, has a novel coming out on October 29th from Black Rose Writing! She’s here to talk about her experience. I’ll be sharing my review of her novel closer to the release date, so keep watch!]

Steady Is The Fall Cover You never know which will be the one. The thing which takes all those whens and maybes and transforms them into something tangible. Something outside of your dear and tender imagination. Over the last nineteen years I began writing dozens of novels and completed three of them before beginning the one. The first to be published. The first to change everything.

I began writing when I was very small. I don’t know a life without stories. I wouldn’t want to really. I treated each book I wrote carefully. They were all different genres with different virtues and flaws, but the only really difference between them was the evolution in quality with the passage of time. Stories from a child. Stories from a teenager. Stories from a writer.

The book which will be published this year is called Steady is the Fall and while I may not have known at the time that it would be the one, I do remember the start of it. I wrote a majority of the first draft in a small three-person room in college with no air conditioning. It was on the first floor and bigger than most rooms, though the building itself was nothing remarkable. I had always dreamed of going somewhere with historic stone buildings and breathtaking architecture, but that never happened. Instead I attended a small, strange, beautiful college at the edge of New York state. It was there that I wrote most of this book, first in the hot first floor room and the following year in a third story paradise in one of the newest buildings. Private bathroom. Real light fixtures. Air conditioning. Beautiful view of the forest right outside my window.

It was in this room where I read The Bell Jar and Ordinary People, two books which made me realize that my own novel did have a place after all. It is hard to get people to read bleak literary fiction, let alone want to bother with the money to buy it. I’m not saying that I’m Sylvia Plath or Judith Guest. I would never dream it. Their books did, however, prove that it is possible and that devastating, beautiful tales could stand against the brutality of time. They could be heard and treasured and matter in a world which thrives on flashiness and high-octane thrill rides.

Steady is the Fall will always be important to me, not just because it will be “my first” but because it was the book which bridged childhood and adulthood for me. When I started writing it I possessed all the naivety and insecurities of a teenager. Of course those attributes haven’t just disappeared, but so much has changed. Evolved. To undergo such a transformation during the course of one novel is a unique thing and for that I will always look at this story as the one which grew me up.

You never now which will be the one and I hope, as all writers hope, that this book will be worthy of such a landmark. Such a title. Such a truth.

It is the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another.

[Add Steady is the Fall on Goodreads here!]

Emily Ruth Verona is the author of the novel Steady Is The Fall. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from The State University of New York at Purchase. She is a recipient of the Pinch Literary Award in Fiction, a Jane Austen Short Story Award Finalist, and Luke Bitmead Bursary Finalist. In 2015 she was shortlisted for the Galtelli Literary Prize. Her work has been featured in The Pinch Literary Journal, The Lost Country, The Toast, and Indigo Rising. She lives in New Jersey with a very small dog.