Solomon Robert’s Tug o’ War and Other Drinking Games is a book that tells a great coming-of-age story. With a writing style similar to that of Michael Chabon, Robert—a 20-something author who lives in Washington state (he’s pictured to the right)—also makes Tug o’ War a great adventure story.
The novel begins with the two main characters: Nathan, and his best friend, a woman named Riley. During a heavy night of drinking, which includes a dine-and-dash attempt because Nathan forgot his wallet, they encounter a strange character named Chase, who works in the restaurant and offers to pick up their tab—as long as Riley does a specific favor.
Chase tells Nathan and Riley that he’s leaving on a road trip down the West Coast the following morning. After they continue their night of heavy drinking, the two friends find themselves on the road the next morning with Chase, and his friend Sam.
As they ride in the car, the four share details of their personal lives—the troubled events of their childhood, their dysfunctional families, and their failed relationships. Chase and Sam both bring up the topic of how Nathan truly feels about Riley. They taunt Nathan: “Fuck her!” Nathan questions whether they mean that figuratively or literally.
Meanwhile, Nathan and Riley realize that Chase and Sam don’t like to reveal much about themselves—a fact which keeps the reader engaged, in an effort to find out who, exactly, Chase and Sam are.
While the crew stops in various places of some significance to Chase, Nathan and Riley continue to drink to excess—often blacking out and waking up the next morning, sometimes seemingly forgetting they’re on a road trip, and perhaps looking for a coffee shop in which they can dwell in their hangovers. The novel is indeed full of drunken excess, with a lot of twists, turns and conflicts after blackouts. Not surprisingly, other substances come into play, too.
The story’s main themes involve the college experience and the immaturity that often accompanies it; at the same time, there is doubt, hesitation and fear in the characters to open up to life, take chances, and acknowledge that they may have feelings for “just a friend.”
In the end, Tug O’ War and Other Drinking Games is like a modern day On the Road—with all of the characters trying to find themselves.
Tug O’ War and Other Drinking Games, by Solomon Robert (Blank Canvas), 314 pages, $12 at www.createspace.com.