Harper: The Snakes by Sadie Jones

A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do

When Marnie slips the pregnancy test from her tool belt, surprising Taz as they're demo-ing their fixer-upper, he's dumbstruck but pleased. A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do feels like a comedic novel of young parenthood. Then, just before the birth, they make a romantic last visit to their favorite secluded fishing spot in the Montana mountains near Missoula, Pacific Northwest author Pete Fromm's (The Names of the Stars) favorite setting. Their situation seems idyllic, but Fromm has another story to tell: of resilience in the face of incomprehensible tragedy.

Marnie delivers Midge, clutches Taz's hand and in an instant, he is a widower with a newborn daughter. Ensuing chapters are titled "Day One" through "Day Five Fifteen" as Taz grapples with grief and fatherhood. While Taz forms an awkward bond with Marnie's mother--a tender storyline--it's their friend Rudy who becomes an unlikely uncle to Midge. His beer-drinking, irregular schedule and droll wit serve as comic relief to the novel's sorrow. (When Taz balks at taking days-old Midge to the club, Rudy says, "She doesn't have to order anything!") He's there, always, sometimes on the porch before Taz even realizes he needs him. He helps Taz resume his carpentry work, and arranges an introduction to Elmo--the bartender-turned-nanny who stabilizes their lives, becoming Midge's "Momo." Taz dotes on Midge, and when the ever-present voice of Marnie eventually says, "The future, it's where you're headed, you can't help that," Taz allows himself to once again feel joy. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco