Who Can You Believe?

by Betsy Ashton

Betsy Ashton, born in Washington, DC, was raised in Southern California where she ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. She protested the war in Vietnam, burned her bra for feminism, and is a steadfast Independent. She is a writer, a thinker, the mother of three grown stepchildren, companion and friend. She mentors writers and writes and publishes fiction. Her first mystery, Mad Max Unintended Consequences, was published in February 2013. The second in the series, Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, came out in April 2015. In her spare time, she is the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club. She loves riding behind her husband on his motorcycle. You’ll have to decide for yourself if and where she has a tattoo.

January 21, 2022

That’s the primary question Clifford Garstang asks in his latest novel, OLIVER’S TRAVELS. I’m a long-time fan of his work. By far, this is his best work yet. I know him to be a solid writer with a strong grasp of craft, but the complexity of this novel blew me away.

Take a philosophy major (Ollie) who questions everything, from what his parents tell him, what he observes, from his friends, and from his teachers, to a memory he has of his Uncle Scotty molesting him. As he grows older and enters college, this memory haunts him. Through a series of dreams, he’s able to identify this phantom as his father says is dead. Ollie can’t accept that, because he has no proof that his uncle is alive or dead.

These these conflicting impressions paralyze him. To deal with what he can’t understand, Ollie creates an alter ego, Oliver, who travels in search for the truth about his uncle. Are his memories real? Can he believe anyone? Can he believe himself?

Through powerful prose and vivid imagery, Garstang crafts a work that will leave you thinking long after you turn the last page.

So why did I like this story so much? Because Garstang weaves philosophy, memory, and travel into a convincing narrative about what goes on in the mind of a young man. Part coming of age, part search for the truth, part family drama, every page holds a revelation. I can’t wait for Garstang’s next work.

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