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The Recalcitrant Stuff of Life is a story of searching – for friends, for forgiveness, for truth. A detailing of friendship dragged through the Amazon jungle and spit out through the stars with the aid of decades, DMT, and well-meaning debauchery.
Roosevelt “Rosy” Robinson is a broken man living a purgatory existence in Peru. Two of his oldest friends from Canada—Stanley “The Deuce” Doucette and Ishmael “Ishy” Lords—have pressing news to deliver. Never have two individuals been so ill-equipped to navigate the “Gringo Trail,” but this is precisely what they must do to track down Rosy in one of the most inaccessible places on the planet.
Ambitious, gritty, and raucously entertaining, Sean McCallum’s debut novel takes readers from Toronto and New York to Lima, then across the Andes, down the Amazon River, and into darkness. Bristling with tragedy, regret, and a little ayahuasca, The Recalcitrant Stuff of Life screams into the void with electric urgency, reveling in what it means to be alive.
This book grabs readers by the wrist and leads them headlong into an authentically raw examination of love and friendship. It's a moving tale of the places we go to seek forgiveness.
Lauren Sapala, transgressive author of The INFJ Revolution, Between the Shadow and Lo, and West is San Francisco:
"Extraordinary, profound, and intensely alive, this book stays with you. It’s a heady mix of the suffocating jungle bleakness of Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary brewed together with the magical boyhood winters of Kerouac’s Maggie Cassidy.
Opening with a quote (or rather, a mathematical equation) from the iconic polymath Benoit Mandelbrot, The Recalcitrant Stuff of Life gives an enigmatic precursor to the intricately layered narrative within. From the first chapter, we’re immersed in the squalid, heartbreaking intensity of Iquitos: a sprawling Peruvian metropolis where it’s easy to get lost, and even easier to lose yourself.
Rosy—consistently drunk and emotionally damaged—is one of the lost ones, and, as we follow the path of his past memories and the curve of his current anguish, we begin to understand with chilling clarity why he's chosen this particular place to enact his downward spiral.
Skipping forward and backward in time, we live through every important memory. We’re introduced to his tight inner circle and how they grew up together. We watch him on the night he falls in love at first sight, then the torturous aftermath. When we come back to present-day Iquitos, he meets the girl who will change everything for him, and--because we’ve seen every essential thread of meaning woven through the tapestry of Rosy’s life--we know this was always meant to be.
Meanwhile, Ishy and The Deuce, his two best friends, have undertaken their own quest down to Iquitos to find Rosy and bring him back before it’s too late. We follow each storyline until they merge into an electrifying conclusion. There, we finally learn about the horrifying event that drove Rosy to run away from his life and bury his soul deep underground.
The Recalcitrant Stuff of Life challenges the reader on so many different levels: Narcissistic characters undermine our assumptions with acts of great kindness, then shatter that illusion the very next page by doing something despicable. Vindictive femme fatales reveal a history of exploitation and abuse, dissolving the mask of rage by showing the wounded little girl beneath. Every character, every turn in the narrative is like that. You think you know where you are, what your opinion is, what’s wrong with everybody, and then McCallum twists the knife until you realize you know nothing—and you never did.
Any reader looking for an antidote to the commercial literary pap churned out by mainstream publishers will instantly fall in love."
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