A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times-but from his life in the late 1800s. After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.
A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future. The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice….
Dead & Bloated – Stone Temple Pilots
My sister Kristen died the same day as the actor River Phoenix, October 31st, 1993, he from a drug overdose in the middle of the night outside the Viper Room, her on an early morning run through Laurel Canyon, two days before her seventeenth birthday—and a happy fucking Halloween to me. There I was, dressed up in costume as D’arcy, the bassist from Smashing Pumpkins: oversized baggy striped sweater, dyed blond hair, a dab of red lips and blue eye shadow, and a broken bass guitar slung around my shoulder that I didn’t know how to play anyway, watching the news where I saw River’s lean body, which I had imagined climbing on top of me multiple times, being hauled away on a stretcher, when the doorbell rang and a police officer asked if my parents were home.
“Er…no,” I said, running through my mind the millions of bad things I may have done. That strappy dress I’d shoplifted, the bag of dirt I sold to a freshman pretending it was weed.
“Are you a relative of Kristen Sullivan?”
Kristen? What could the police want with perfect Kristen?
“Yeah. Her sister.”
“I am sorry to tell you this, but your sister has died.”
I truly believed that if I slammed the door on the cop, what they said wouldn’t be real. That’s how mental I was. A montage of River Phoenix appeared on the television. Stand By Me, Running on Empty, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, and as the gay hustler in My Own Private Idaho, where I truly fell in love. I didn’t know if I was crying for him or Kristen, all I knew was my hands were blackened from the mascara stains.
The police officer went on to tell me what happened. Kristen was going for a run when she collapsed. A neighbor called the paramedics, but she was DOA likely from a brain aneurysm, the same thing that took my grandfather when he was super young too.
My own brain felt weighted, as if both their afflictions had insidiously traveled down the street and filtered into my cranium. Kristen and I were so close in age, Irish twins just eleven months apart, and the horror of thinking this might happen to me next became too much to deal.
“Where are your parents?” the police officer asked, sober and to the point, bringing me back from the brink of insanity. “Is there a number we can reach them at?”
Dad was surely at work, specializing in finance litigation, whatever the hell that meant, usually into the office by 7:00 a.m. and home sometimes around midnight, a ghost who occasionally graced us with his presence. Mom was a secretary in an ad agency, possibly still home. I heard a voice calling down from up above asking who it was. Mom’s face emerged at the top of the stairs. She had a hair crimper still smoking in her hand and wore a blouse with thick shoulder pads. Her nose twitched and then she sneezed. I couldn’t watch her heart break too so I just ran upstairs.
Instead of my room, I bolted into Kristen’s who kept it immaculate. Posters of Jason Priestly from 90210 adorned the walls. I was more of a Luke Perry gal with his bad-boy sideburns and scowl, and a receding hairline that I longed to stroke as he’d nestle his angular head into my lap so I could stare into his brooding eyes.
I flopped on Kristen’s bed, smelling the Sunflowers perfume still clinging to her pillow, and stared around her room. Sports trophies galore: track and field and volleyball, even basketball, which was her secondary sport. An Ace of Base poster taped to the ceiling. She would blast “The Sign,” and I’d reply by turning up Soundgarden or Nirvana or Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins or Mother Love Bone, or any kind of real music to drown out the shitty pop shit she loved so much. That was Kristen, a pop song: silky blond hair, hella popular at school but never a mean girl. She had so many friends I could never keep track of them all while I just had two: Winter and Jeremy, our super-exclusive trio of burnouts, terrible grades, and contempt for everyone else who pretended like they were in a 90210 episode. If I’d ever be prevented from graduating, no one would chant “Nico Sullivan Graduates” like they did for frog-faced Donna Martin.
Yes, my name is Nico, short for Nicole but no one has called me that since I was a little kid. Too pedestrian. Nico smokes long cigarettes while Nicole liked ponies. Nico uses her fake ID to get into clubs and listen to hella angry music where sweaty dudes with long hair in flannel shirts rage about the government and our lame parents and the War on Drugs and the AIDS crisis and old George Bush who’d finally been replaced by saxophone playing cool guy Bill Clinton—who I’d totally do—and then the two of us would share like five post-coital Big Macs because I know he’d be into that.
The thought stayed trapped between my ears. It had floated away momentarily only to come racing back with venom. My beautiful sister who I barely spent any time with, who I honestly resented because she didn’t have a muffin top body like mine and pasty skin and a smile that showed too much of her upper gums. I pictured her lying lonely on the ground when the aneurysm struck. Could she tell what was going on? Did she see the light as it took her away? Was she thinking of me?
God, how narcissistic I could be.
I whipped out a cigarette and lit it out the window, puffed away and contemplated leaping outside, two dead daughters in one horror of a day for my folks. I knew they’d mourn Kristen more. I was an afterthought, an oh right Nico’s there too, more of a ghost in the house than even my dad. I’d spend as much time away from home as possible, escaping with Winter and Jeremy.
I carefully listened at the door to hear if the cop was still there. I heard Mom weeping, dark sounds coming up from deep within her soul. I put out my cigarette and rushed out of Kristen’s room. Grabbing my Walkman, I booked it out of the house before anyone could stop me, not wanting to deal with Mom trying to comfort me or vice-versa. Headphones on, listening to my Stone Temple Pilots tape as the song “Dead & Bloated” shattered my eardrums. I turned up the volume to the max as the song took over the world.
I hit rewind and played the song over and over, singing it at the top of my lungs, causing our neighbor Mr. Ferguson to waddle outside in his backyard and give me the side eye because of our low fences. But then more police cruisers wailed up the block and pulled in front of our lawn and I was forced to confront my sad, sad reality again.
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com
Isolation finds two characters from different circumstances in a past & present feel in a small little place called Laner, Alaska. Yet, these characters are connected in a questionable manner that becomes more accepted as time goes on.
Wyatt Barlow, our man wakes up emerging from the ice in Alaska with no memories, but he does have a journal which the year 1898. The plot was varying at time but always lead to the next thing that kept you flipping pages through a family saga that dips into greed, love, sacrifice, acceptance, jealousy and friendship.
Goldberg did intensive, not sure across the board, research into Alaskan history, Indigenous tribes, the gold rush expeditions and so much more. Then we have Travis Barlow, Wyatts great-great grandson whom he didn’t realize was his other than the appearance of being his identical twin. This worked well into getting the story just right within The Ancestor while quick in some areas, dragging in others it was a interesting thrilling suspenseful read. Wyatt realizes he has been frozen since his journey to Alaska during the gold rush… and that is when this story flies off the rails sending me into finishing it so much faster than I wanted!! I didn’t sleep till I finished it!!!!!
Now Goldberg came about this remark that leaves a unique yet beautiful aftertaste once the story had concluded I would leave a wonderful taste that you could easily reread for the enjoyment.
Lastly, Thank you Rockstar book tours and Goldberg for this chance to read The Ancestor. I choose to be apart of the tour with my ancestral background and found this very enjoyable even with the parts that seemed to drag. It was a page-turner even then because of the details and attention to those very details that kept me turning wanting more until it was over and I was gasping for air.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js
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