The Order of Actaeon, Waxwood Series, book 1
c. Janurary 2018
Print ISBN 978-0998197920
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About the Book
Sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted.
Jake is heir to the fortune and name of the prominent San Francisco Alderdice family. Although dearly loved by his sister Vivian, his passion for art and his contemplative temperament make him a pariah in the eyes of his bitter, tyrannical mother Larissa.
Eight months after his grandfather dies, Larissa announces the family is going to Waxwood, an exclusive resort town in Northern California, for the summer. At first, Jake’s life seems as aimless in Waxwood as it was in the city. Then Jake meets Stevens. With paternal authority and an obsession for power and leadership, Stevens is the epitome of Larissa’s idea of a family patriarch. Jake develops a hero worship for Stevens who in turn is intrigued by Jake’s artistic talent and philosophical nature. Stevens introduces him to the Order Of Actaeon, a group of misanthropes who reject commercial and conventional luxuries for a “pure” life in the wild.
But behind the potent charms of his new friend and seductive simplicity of the Actaeon lifestyle lies something more brutal and sinister than Jake could have anticipated.
Literary, and in this case, psychological fiction, is often hard to classify. It’s meant to be thought-provoking, and May’s full-length fiction certainly does that. I admit not having a base from which to understand the Alderdice family and others like them who can simply afford to move to a resort for several months, where the bulk of this story takes place. I’m also from a hunting family, so I also can’t personally understand the depth of horror others feel about killing for food. Maybe for perverse sport or torture, yes, but not as a necessity for gathering food.
That said, I also recommend readers understand the background of the very basic Greek myth of the hunter, Actaeon, before or during reading this novel. May does share the story in different ways through the book, but having a base knowledge first helps.
The Order of Actaeon is an oddly coming-of-age story about adult children who have never grown up in a family seemingly in isolation in many ways. The story begins in contemporary times in San Francisco and begins on a left foot in the purview of the family matriarch saying farewell to her dying father. Her view of her adult children seemingly sets one tone for the book that ends with the Introduction and Larissa’s voice. Jake takes up the storyline in chapter one. Jake will probably never step into the family patriarchal role of leader and business mogul. He has an artist’s soul, if not encouragement or self-acceptance. A character is introduced who has the power to send the family on a summer break, and then shoved off-stage. While on this summer break, another powerful man, Harding Stevens, steps into the gap and changes the course of their lives.
Another important aspect to appreciate this novel is to step into Jake’s shoes as he slowly reveals the depravation of his psyche and the desperation to fill it with love and admiration, no matter the source. May’s lyricism in describing the comparison Larissa makes between Jake and his father, no longer in the picture, show this beautifully when Jake broods that his mother has “kept photographs never taken and never thrown away” of his father. The love of his sister will never be enough. Jake’s need to garner the admiration of Stevens starts on the highest of proverbial pedestals, and you know what they say about the length of the fall. While he charms Larissa and repels Vivian who also has a strange attraction to him, Jake comes the closest to leaving his self-imposed funk.
The reader is led on an emotional awakening with Jake and Stevens. Toward the climax of the story, Stevens asks, “No one is going to alienate you anymore, isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”
I’m not really sure how to describe what seems to be merely a prop, the Order of Actaeon as a group of men Stevens seemed to have stumbled upon. When I try to recall exactly the role of the group, I wonder if the story wouldn’t be just as good without them. But this is just the first book in a series, and I’m sure there are plenty more twists to come.
About the Author:
Tam May was born in Israel but grew up in the United States. She earned her B.A. and M.A in English and worked as an English college instructor and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher before she became a full-time writer. She started writing when she was 14 and writing became her voice. She writes psychological fiction, exploring characters’ emotional realities informed by past experiences, dreams, feelings, fantasies, nightmares, imagination, and self-reflection.
Her first book, a short story collection titled Gnarled Bones And Other Stories, was nominated for a 2017 Summer Indie Book Award. The first book of her family drama series, The Waxwood Series, is out now in paperback. She is currently working on the second book of the series and a work of psychological women’s fiction titled House of Masks.
She lives in Texas but calls San Francisco and the Bay Area home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading classic literature and watching classic films.
For more information on Tam May and her work, feel free to check out her website at www.tammayauthor.com.