“Book Review: Wilting at Gin Mills”
Reviewed by Frank Pizzoli
Bar room regulars shed social media identities & reveal their true selves in this timely and absorbing literary novel
If you laid end to end all the online descriptions concocted by social media participants, how far would they stretch? One mile, ten miles, the truth? That’s how the fun—and tension—starts in Job Tyler Leach’s second novel Wilting at Gin Mills.
The story is set in the small town milieu of Mancheville, Pennsylvania, where in the local bars everybody knows your name. Think Cheers for the 21st Century, with some potentially serious side effects.
Leach takes readers on a jaunty fly-on-the-wall adventure during one unusually hot summer in Mancheville. As his characters make their regular rounds through local bars, they shed layers of the emotional skin protecting their carefully crafted Internet identities. The book’s dramatic foundation reflects today’s toxic world of fake news, cancel culture, and the wilting civility at all levels of public discourse.
In 171 pages, Gin Mills unpacks how easy it is in today’s world to hide behind a social media persona that may or may not reflect who we are in real life. Then throw in alcohol among a bunch of individuals in a small town who know one another—and we’ve got ourselves a story.
Regular bar crawler George Miranda, 70, is known for his fair and sensible demeanor. He’s part of a regular town ritual in which the same crowd of drinkers visit the same three bars in the same order. First, they hit the Mancheville Pub, then the Night’s Quest Bar & Restaurant, and finally Hank’s tavern where the night ends with more than one shot of misinformation in your drink. In what today seems like a lost human skill, George is comfortable being the facilitator or referee in an argument in which he’s not participating.
However, it’s that demeanor that eventually gets George staring danger right in the face.
Leach’s characters capture the essence of what is around us today. What he calls “An odd blend of simmering sensitivity and sectarian aggression” that has enveloped us all in “opinions…so strong and emotions so intense.” This odd blend leads to millions of words presented on social media sites but never actually discussed with people we know or even people we don’t. He captures the bane of our social and political existence: We announce to the world who we are. Then set our electronic devices on sleep. No or little human interaction takes place. Only codes, algorithms, shares, likes/dislikes, and interested-in-attendings (but probably won’t).
The creative energy unleashed by Leach’s approach to his novel allows the unmasking of characters who, under George’s guidance, acknowledge and own the personas they’ve created on social media. Eventually analogue people with a pulse must confront their cyber selves to perform an honest audit on who they are and who they are not.
Leach’s book couldn’t be timelier given the current state of our social media climate. Wilting at Gin Mills is a realistic look at what is acceptable online, how our online identities and pronouncements resemble or hide our true selves, and how we may be redefining normal in ways we eventually regret.
Publisher: Milford House Press
Genre: Literary fiction
Print Length: 177 pages
Thank you for reading “Book Review: Wilting at Gin Mills” by Frank Pizzoli! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.