Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: "The Toil of Hands" (Todd Mihalcik)

In the early twentieth century, the Sonoma Valley in California finds the O'Keeffe family vineyard the site of a terrible clash between the past and present, encompassing all the betrayals, fears, hopes, and secrets that were never meant to be exposed to the light.

Jim O'Keeffe, patriarch of the family and the successful vineyard, lover and worshiper of the grapes that he has tenderly bred and nurtured for decades, has little time left on earth. His grandson William is his chosen successor for the vineyard, and yet William struggles to accept his preordained place in the ancestral tradition.

For Jim, this last season among the grapes harbors all the darkest demons he's worked for years to expunge and put behind him. For William, both cursed and gifted beyond measure with an unbelievable ability from childhood, this time is in coming to the end of himself, trying to determine where he belongs.

What neither expects is that the arrival of a newcomer in their midst will bring a deeper and more hellish darkness than any they could have imagined, and that the final battle will require every secret laid bare and more blood shed than they have ever lost working their beloved vineyard for so many generations.

It is with the deepest pleasure and honor that I introduce to you The Toil of Hands by Todd Mihalcik, a beautifully rendered work of literary fiction, rife with generational tensions, unforeseen consequences, unnerving motives, and unsettling suspense.

Both character-driven and substantially and meticulously plotted, this sweeping novel encompasses in an epic form the combined ancestry and legacy of Jim O'Keeffe, whose life stands as the pivotal point around which the story events take place. You'll step into another century, another world, through the four parts and myriad interconnected lives that comprise the work, which shifts its focus from the past to the present alike.

As fascinating and detailed as are the characters and their respective agendas, dreams, failures, and triumphs, the novel's most spectacular feature is its stylized language. Mihalcik carefully and painstakingly renders every scene with the kind of attention to detail, consistency, and description ordinarily (and perhaps shortsightedly) reserved for those works in the high fantasy or science-fiction genres, in which world-building is as much a part of the story as character, plot, dialogue, and every other fiction element.

The stage throughout The Toil of Hands is rendered with stunning care. From the very first sentence, I found the work impossible to put down, if for no other reason than that I might lose the intricately drawn images that my imagination had created from the expertly crafted content and the striking imagery.

A further claim to the literary genre is the perspective from which the story is written. Readers follow not one character after another but a broader context, a kind of macro-cosmic, all-knowing, all-seeing point-of-view that delivers the thorough and lifelike descriptions with the same detached, godlike aplomb as are delivered character interactions and story events.

Intricately woven, masterfully written, deeply philosophical, reservedly poignant, filled with unexpected turning points and breathtaking reversals, The Toil of Hands is a true modern classic, akin to such sweeping literary standards as those produced by Dickens or Tolstoy in bygone eras, that you won't soon forget.

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Author: Todd Mihalcik
Title: The Toil of Hands
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1JSbkqM

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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