by Michael Sainte-Andress
This article was first published May 17, 2022 in DC Trending here.
I was unfamiliar with Dave Housley’s other work, so I didn’t know what to expect from his third novel, The Other Ones, published by Alan Squire Publishing. His other novels are Howard and Charles at the Factory and This Darkness Got to Give. Housley is also one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse, a D.C.-based, national literary magazine, small press, and literary-based non-profit.
The Other Ones centers on 13 employees of an advertising firm, Keystone Special Marketing Solutions, winning the lottery and walking away with 8.8 million dollars each. The story is told from the perspectives of seven characters, beginning with a 63-year-old, 243-pound accountant named Yoder. As the book opens we are with him, five stories up and reacting to the situation by contemplating suicide:
“Yoder fights the tingle in his fingers and toes. He looks over the edge. The landscaping people are moving lawn mowers and edgers over from the parking lot and the sound of their Spanish drifts up from five stories below. He holds his foot over the edge and butterflies swarm in his stomach. He looks at his belly, protruding like half a basketball is stuffed into his shirt. He looks straight ahead. He takes the step.”
Yoder recurs periodically as an invisible presence in the homes of some of the lottery winners observing how they are now living and occasionally using his powers as a specter to create havoc.
The story introduces us to a host of interesting characters including Lawson, the company’s assistant director, an ambitious company man who is resentful of the lottery winners. We meet more of the employees: there’s Jennifer Chastain, a hard-working young woman who cringes at the thought that, “Those jackasses won the fucking lottery?” There is Craver, a slacker marketing associate, who isn’t sure if he played the lottery that week or not, followed by Andre, a young Black system administrator who is considered an up and coming player in the company and thinks playing the lottery is stupid.
The story is not told as a straightforward narrative, but rather in an episodic manner from the points of view of those seven characters. This format is engrossing and could be more interesting if their reflections had been more consistent and revelatory, and if they’d each contributed more to the overall storyline. Instead we see splintered, incomplete depictions of situations that do not necessarily connect to an ongoing scenario. Housley gives bits and pieces of events that occur, without providing an understandable context.
One has to assume the connection that some of the characters have without any verification. For instance, are Sarah and Lawson a couple or just business partners? What is Chad’s and Nicole’s (the consultants brought in to restore the company morale) particular interest in Andre? Do they see themselves as his mentors, and what about him makes them believe he’s such a potentially successful young man?
“Craver is considering finally getting out of the car when the email vibrates into his phone. Cowens? What the fuck would Cowens be emailing him for? He has a moment of dumb animal thrill–a quickening in his pulse, everything goes blurry and he closes his eyes. They have reviewed everything and determined that he did play. He was right. He’s a millionaire.”
Although the episodic storytelling was a bit problematic for me, it still comes across compellingly, and I wager it would be appealing to many readers. The questions it raises are thought-provoking and provide an interesting insight into the workings of people’s minds and responses to certain circumstances.
A subtle thread throughout the novel shows the ways money—whether earned at the workplace or won in the lottery’s windfall—destroys lives. The Other Ones invites readers to an unfortunately believable and emotionally complex world, revolving around the ways that money can rule our lives. The depression we witness at the story’s opening contrasts purposely with the hypothetically joyful premise of winning the lottery. Across the stories of interconnected characters, Housley invites readers to consider and judge the ways money can disrupt and frame modern relationships.