Relatively Painless - 20 Stories


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Relatively Painless captures the humour, tragedy and sheer human complexity of a family masquerading as functional.

For centuries, the best and most honest writers of tragedy have been writers well-versed in comedy and Dylan Brody is no exception. Relatively Painless, an episodic novel, captures the humour, tragedy and sheer human complexity of a dysfunctional family masquerading as functional in his portrayal of the Grunmans.

Beginning with Daniel and Lindsay's relationship, Brody captures siblings stereotypically. This is the beauty of Brody's craft; he thrives through using family stereotypes we are all familiar with and begins to carve out the reality. In Daniel and Lindsay's case, this is demonstrated later in the novel as the jealousy and admiration continue as expected but both siblings come together in the face of their parents in order to stay buoyant. Brody's ability to uncover these tender moments without the cliché is admirable. Thus, the development of this relationship is honest - they both still exhibit behaviours witnessed in the opening chapter but find a love and safety in the other which I think many of us find in our siblings once we age. After all, it is often said siblings are all we have left when friends turn away.

It is through these characters that we are introduced first to Brody's talent as a humorist and then his mastery when it comes to unravelling tragedy in a way which feels undeniably human. Nothing is protracted or gratuitous. Lindsay's experience with grief is moving and messy. Brody is brave enough and good enough to write moments in all their awkwardness and ugliness. Not once did I need to suspend belief; Brody capitalises on the ordinary and our complex, and often useless, coping mechanisms in these situations. And so, the exploration of Daniel and Lindsay's parents, Ellen and Paul, was superb too.

At times, as Ellen spoke I found myself fuming in response. I truly believe there is no higher compliment to made to a writer than that I vehemently disliked one of the characters. That said, by the end, Brody's writing of Ellen was raw and touching because he writes people not characters or caricatures. The writing and development of both Ellen and Paul was stunning. As the novel progresses, despite often being from Daniel's perspective, you soon realise the crux of the plot relies utterly on Ellen and Paul as parents and as individuals. Therefore, as mentioned above, although Brody begins with the stereotypes, he ends with a genuine portrayal of human beings struck by tragedy and grief.

Reviewed by

I am a writer and freelance editor/proofreader based in the UK. I have self-published two poetry collections (Between the Trees and Flowers on the Wall). I enjoy reviewing poetry, short stories, literary fiction and historical fiction. I am the Editor-in-Chief for Free Verse Revolution magazine.


About the author

One of America’s great storytellers and humorists, Dylan Brody has written for dozens of comedians, for the Tonight Show monologues and has placed stories in The American Bystander. In 2005, Dylan won the Stanley Drama award for play-writing. You can look him up! view profile

Published on December 01, 2020

Published by Atmosphere

50000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Anthologies

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