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The struggles of running a successful business. Rivalries with corporate partners out to steal clients. Romantic relationships, past and present. A family legacy of alcoholism. A soft spot for the homeless.
Gavin’s world, peopled with a host of colorful characters, teeters on the edge. Things slide into chaos, though, when he is visited by the memory of a long-ago girlfriend and a morning spent with her at an abortion clinic. He also discovers a former partner in the ad agency he now owns has stolen his largest client. Lissa, his wife, fears Gavin has lost focus on the important things. Then there is also the constant pull of the bottle. Events engulf Gavin, putting his career, his marriage—and even his life—at risk.
Offering insight into how those trials can shape men’s day-to-day lives and personalities, Rules for Giving also poses important moral questions on abortion, gay and straight relationships, the homeless, and how acts of kindness can pay off in unexpected ways.
Rules for Giving is a scorcher of a debut novel. In the unpredictability of modern times, this story proves a testament to the journey many of us find ourselves on. If you look hard enough you will find novels with similar themes, that flirt with the bonds of addiction and where the rhetoric covers fairly typical ground, but few are as relatable to the reader as Sunderland’s offering. Compelling, and above all brutally honest, he naturally gravitates towards social commentary, exploring ethical and moral themes, and in his portrait of Gavin Oliver his novel soars. Smartly observational, Sunderland demonstrates the enviable ability to get beneath the veneer of his characters with pithy comments that illustrate, in a penetrating way, the duality of life. In doing so he makes that all-important emotional connection with his readers. Rules For Giving may be a male-centric novel but in its broad strokes it’s a sober look at life choices. More importantly, where far too many authors fail to come to a definitive point, Sunderland makes his explicit and he doesn’t pull his punches, his prose lingering as a poignant reminder to be true to ourselves and focus on what is most important in life.
An exceptional debut and one that bodes well for future releases from
Sunderland, Rules For Giving is recommended without reservation.
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Timothy Sunderland, a twenty-five-year advertising-industry veteran, previously worked as a freelance writer, with bylines in various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Motor Trend, Bicycling, and Outside. He is a native of Southern California, where he lives with his wife. They share six sons and an ever-growing flock of grandchildren.
Rules for Giving is his first novel. He has several other concepts for novels in various stages of development. Some of them explore other angles of the malecentric experience. Others address various aspects of gay and straight relationships, homelessness, and coming to terms with family histories and legacies.
He has also published several short stories.