It’s always intriguing to read novels that utilize different forms of entertainment as plot devices and methods for relaying themes. Novels about poets, dancers, actors, writers of works of fiction within the fiction. Stories that hinge on the creative ambitions of its characters, when told effectively, have a certain personal affect that mirrors the imaginative forces within ourselves.
Benjamin Rybeck’s debut novel, The Sadness, employs film, and the people caught up in its magic, as its medium for dispensing its wisdom and wide range of emotions. Despite its title, there is a hearty amount of laughter to be found in these pages. The closest comparison that can be made to Rybeck’s foray into the novel form is maybe Owen King’s Double Feature—another novel that uses cult films and fractured families to untangle its intricate plot.
Set in the late-2012, amidst frigid cold winds and snow falling down on the small town of Portland, Maine, The Sadness tells the tale of Max and Kelly—siblings separated by the turmoil of a deceased mother, the absence of a father, and the complexities of finding a rhythm in adult life. Kelly returns home to Portland after a cryptic phone call from someone she presumes to be