Why I love it
Old habits die hard, and (caution: here comes TMI), I have a longstanding practice of eating while reading particular literary genres. For instance, I prefer crunching on salty anything for mysteries; sweets for commercial fiction and biographies. However, a few seconds into _Freedom’s Child_ and I dropped my bag of kettle chips and never went back to them again.
The opening lines of Jax Miller's knockout debut thriller fed my hunger instead: "My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter. It's surreal, honestly, and I'm not sure what feels more like a dream, her death or her existence. I'm guilty of both." What follows is perhaps the most satisfying reading experience I've had so far this year.
Freedom, a bartender and a self-described "murderer, cop killer, fugitive, and drunk," pours potent drinks as customers in Painter, Oregon, spill their sins to her. What the patrons don't know is that Freedom is full of her own secrets too. For starters, the ink-stained redhead is living under a Witness Protection Program for killing her abusive, police officer husband. Now, Matthew, Freedom's sleazebag former brother-in-law, has just been released from prison and is looking to avenge his sibling's murder. To lure Freedom out of hiding, Matthew uses the toughest line of bait to tug on Freedom's hardened heartstrings: the two grown children she gave up for adoption long ago.
What's a woman to do? For Freedom, that means hopping on her Harley-Davidson to protect her shattered family. What's a reader to do? Sit back and enjoy a wild ride through America's rusty, neglected back roads, where loners and hitchhikers have created an informal economy with its own bizarre rites and rules. This razor-sharp journey is littered with some shady and scary characters including bad-to-the-bone bikers, an apocalyptic cult, and a 600-pound, cocaine peddling mean mama who wants to take Freedom out, for good. That we care more deeply about Freedom through each of these dizzying and dangerous encounters makes Miller's audacious first novel that much more remarkable.