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Bones in the Wash

Politics is Tough. Family is Tougher.
Winner, Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) Best Book Award, 2015

Albuquerque Mayor Tomas Zamara understands that politics is like playing football on a muddy field. If you don't get dirty, you're not giving your all. But dirty politics is not his style.The Democrats' Barack Obama is drawing adoring crowds with his uplifting speeches, and Zamara's GOP bosses are pressuring him to do "whatever it takes" to win. Challenging him every step of the way is fierce, young Sierra León of the Democracy Project, who calls on him to listen to his better self and reject his party's unsavory practices.But if only his life were as simple as politics. Mayor Zamara is also grappling with being a suspect in his wife's murder; fending off his father, who wants to rescue his failing business with city money; and satisfying his demanding new woman, the radiant and volatile Tory Singer, who may not be who she says she is.

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★★★★★ Great and timely read!

What a great time to read this novel! It is set in New Mexico and centers around political and personal intrigue associated with the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns for this swing state in the 2008 election. The characters are nicely drawn, and the plot did a great job of pulling me in and really holding my attention from early on in the story to its satisfying conclusion. Anyone who has raised an eyebrow at the shenanigans currently on display in this year’s “real life” presidential campaign season will enjoy John Byrne Barry’s depiction of fictional – but very believable! – events eight years ago. I highly recommend it.

★★★★★ A perfect read for this political season

John Byrne Barry’s “Bones in the Wash” reminds me of T.C. Boyle’s “Tortilla Curtain,” only better. In 2016 we all know the outcome of the 2008 presidential race—Obama defeats McCain—yet by adding murder and dysfunctional family dynamics to the mix, Barry manages to infuse the past race for New Mexico’s electoral votes with intense drama and great suspense. Even though you know who won, “Bones in the Wash” is a page-turner you won’t want to put down.

When Barry takes us behind the headlines, it turns out that big shifts in national politics depend on small shifts in local politics, on individual voters turning up to register and to vote and on those same voters not being dissuaded from voting by the machinations of the rival parties. The battle for individual votes is intensely fought. Bringing the same insight to bear on our relationships, Barry examines how a thousand small decisions, made over time, have a weight and momentum that’s hard to overcome in marriages and in families.

Barry’s two likable protagonists clash because they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but mesh because both value integrity. Mayor Tomas Zamara is on the rise politically when he’s tapped to lead the McCain campaign in his part of New Mexico. Fearless, young Sierra Leon seizes the chance for a leadership role in the D-project, an independent organization working to turn out the vote for Obama in her hometown in New Mexico.

Barry has a good eye for character-revealing and world-building details, but his main focus is always on his characters’ efforts not to let dozens of small decisions compromise their integrity. Both Tomas and Sierra find that people they love are just as likely as political ideologues to pressure them to make bad choices, to go along, to get along, to ignore the short cuts that people around them are so eager to justify. When Tomas and Sierra refuse to bend, we’re left cheering and wondering who will be cast in the movie!

Profile Photo John Byrne Barry

About John Byrne Barry

John Byrne Barry wrote his first book-length project in fifth-grade at Kilmer School in Chicago--a 140-page treatise on dinosaurs. One page for each dinosaur, and lots of white space. He's been writing ever since--magazine and newspaper stories; political comedy; advice columns (the Lazy Organic Gardener); and more. He's even written for a seed catalog. His first novel, Wasted, is a murder mystery set in the garbage/recycling universe in Berkeley, California. He lives in Mill Valley, California, with his wife and family.

All books by John Byrne Barry

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