It’s the end of College and five friends have graduated, albeit only just but before they head out into the “real world” and their futures, there is time for one last “hurrah!”, one last road trip. They pack their gear and head for a five-day rafting trip down the Rio Grande, on the Mexican Border. In Hubris Falls by Matthew S. Hiley, we tag along with this unlikely bunch of friends who are linked mainly by one thing – their love of alcohol and weed. What was supposed to be a final salute to their youth quickly turns into a deep introspection of their lives, their beliefs and their prejudices. Brian and Jimmy have been close friends since High School. The two friends, unlikely as they are; Jimmy is black, a Democrat, and fervently believes in the redemptive power of faith despite the tragedy that has already struck his young life but he still holds strong beliefs on white dominance and suppression. Brian (Legs), on the other hand, is a child of white privilege, a Republican and simply cannot believe that any loving God would allow such tragedy as exists in the world today. Throw a redneck bigot into the conversation, in Williams’ and you have a ready-made mixture of dark humour, satire and ultimately tragedy. This will be one final hurrah that none of the participants will ever forget.
Hubris Falls is first and foremost a tragic comedy. The pathos and beauty that are exposed by author Matthew S. Hiley within the same narrative and often within the same sentence is a testament to this writer’s ability and talent, to be able to dig deep and mine into the heart of a reader’s emotions. I was entranced by the story and by the amazing relationships between the characters, especially Jimmy and Brian. Their friendship had been built over a number of years based on trust and understanding of each other’s situations and yet, there were still always questions over how much Brian truly understand of Jimmy’s life and difficulties and vice versa. No matter how hard it has been to deal with the tragedies in his life, Jimmy has kept his faith and his positive outlook on life and people, in general. The author uses the trip to confront many of the untold truths and fears of these five men (and many of us) as they embark on life after college. The humour, given the seriousness of the topics and events on the raft, is a wonderful panacea to the grim reality of their discussions. Good humour in fiction is very hard to produce and Hiley has done a superb job in lightening the topic with his sarcastic and farcical humour. I found myself laughing out loud as I read, a rare occurrence for me. For that alone, this book lifts itself out of the mire of “coming of age” stories. The characterisations of the fearless five were true to live and I’m sure will resound with many people. An excellent book, a fantastic read and one I can highly recommend.