Legacy Book Press
June 27, 2023
ISBN: 979-8-9867874-8-0, 220 pages
“The line between happiness and despair is razor-thin, and all it takes is a sudden shift in the wind.”
The past is sometimes a spectral siren, looming over our present and calling us back to find answers and closure to mysteries and memories.
In Dreams of Arcadia by Brian Porter, Nate Holub is a divorced father of twin teen girls and a successful small-animal veterinarian in Houston, Texas; however, he feels a persistent tug to return to the family homestead near Hadlow, Texas, a mere two hours from Houston. With some trepidation and misgiving, Nate moves into a farmhouse near Hadlow and joins Everett Templeton’s modest veterinary practice that serves all large and small animals in the area. While maintaining the familial ties in Houston, Nate must now accommodate his different life and job and the new doubts piercing the memories of his father’s accidental death thirty years ago. As he settles into a fresh routine and starts digging into the past, Nate discovers more about himself and more details about his father’s life and death than he ever could have imagined.
Dreams of Arcadia is ultimately about capricious memories and the need to reconnect with the roots of both family and the natural world. As Nate navigates the challenges, pitfalls, and eventual rewards of being a rural veterinarian in and around a small Texas town, he transitions from seeking change and answers to finding the tentative essence of solace and contentment through hard work and purpose. Brian Porter traces this literary journey with ease, providing readers with a sense of hope and even a sense of humor along the way. Nate’s odyssey is not unlike James Herriot’s in All Creatures Great and Small, in that both men offer expert and loving care to the animals they treat and are ready to serve a community that is not always grateful to or trustful of the new vet in town.
Brian Porter’s writing is both melodic and pragmatic when describing Nate’s internal turmoil and the gritty details of treating animals with life-threatening conditions. Moreover, the author expertly captures the dichotomy of both the modern and natural worlds that tend to snake together and then break away in a continuous dance. Nate often seems caught between these two microcosms, searching for a sense of place and a solid foothold that will give him the best of both worlds. For readers looking for it, there is romance close to the end of the book when a tentative infatuation awkwardly, yet sweetly, appears. The imagery in Dreams of Arcadia is plentiful, with animal and human volatility, extreme weather, and the certainty of both life and death all culminating in the desperate need to dig into the past before finally letting it go and the primeval desire to grip plots of earth with both hands and hang on tight.
Dreams of Arcadia will entertain readers who enjoy literary fiction that charts the quest for answers and peace in a strange yet familiar existence. Returning to nature often brings the grounding and clarity needed to realign one’s dreams, but longing for an elusive utopia or arcadia can create false hope and then discouragement. When Nate peels back the layers of ambiguous, long-ago events and unmasks his boyhood memories, he releases the negative ties of the past that bind and embraces the present, including appreciating his family’s flaws and then authoring his life’s next chapter.
Brian Porter lives in College Station, Texas, where he works as a veterinary pathologist. He previously worked in private veterinary practice and once taught high school chemistry. Dreams of Arcadia is his first novel.