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AFGA: A Mystery Sets in Harrisonburg

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Meet Afga Somerset, former JMU student and one time promising poet, now a town character getting nowhere in his life, only deeper into his head. But when his best friend is found dead, presumably murdered, Afga becomes the center of a police investigation, and his inner/outer life shifts into high gear.

Meanwhile, long-standing preoccupations continue to haunt Afga's life: his emotional battle over a failed marriage; his ex-wife's new lesbian romance and its impact on her eight year old daughter for whom Afga has become the official baby-sitter; his prodding aunt who carries on a blistering correspondence while seeking advise about her own issues; and above all else, the surreal dialogue he conducts with a father who disappeared long ago. All leading to discoveries that solve more than one mystery, while creating a few more.

AFGA is an intriguing, touching and humorous excursion into the world of an irrepressibly buoyant web-weaver, filled with the hero's offbeat takes on the many thorny issues besetting our collective contemporary lifestyle.

Enter Afga's metaphoric landscape...and take a joyous ride to the other side.

Afga, the picaresque hero, lives unashamedly by his own curious reasoning. Because his logic is so unrelentingly circular, his life for the past 16 years has worn the path of a man with one foot staked to the ground, or, in his case, downtown Harrisonburg. He cannot leave his squalid efficiency apartment because the building coincidentally bears both the name and the birthdate of his dead father; self-doubt keeps him from completing volume II of a cycle of poems; he cannot engage any woman in love because his heart still clings to his ex-wife. When the novel opens Afga can't even decide if it is Winter or Spring.

What jolts him from his rut is the bizarre shooting death of a co-worker from the hospital where Afga has a menial job. Suddenly, Afga has to deal with a mystery greater than the spirals of (highly amusing) logic in his head. The outside world suddenly raids his insular existence. Now he not only has to wrestle with his inner angst--his failed love, his poetic block, his identity as the son of an unknown father--but with tangible terrors such as sheriffs and shopping malls. (Afga's agonizingly existential encounter with the modern shopping mall will touch anyone appalled by crass commercialization.)

In seeking solutions to his multifaceted predicament, Afga re-invents himself, revealing the queer and delightful genius that was there all along.

This year, I'm totally besotted by Afga.

Anne Fox, editor, Bay Books News

Guns, blood, chaos and suspense. This is what most readers expect from a murder mystery. However, Vitae Bergman, author of "Afga: a mystery set in Harrisonburg," proves you don't have to be Mary Higgins Clark or Dean Koontz to produce a page-turner.

The story focuses on Afga Somerset, a fictitious graduate of JMU and once-promising poet who has lost direction in the shuffle of post-college life. Living in his own world of demons, bizarre metaphors and random outbursts, Afga is commonly dismissed by others as strange, not exactly the brightest ornament on the tree. However, as the story unfolds, the reader views life through a different set of eyes, experiencing life and its many trials from a perspective not commonly taken, and learns there is more to this odd character than what first meets the eye.

A twisting and, at times, seemingly pointless plot leads the reader in pursuit of a mysterious murderer, a long-lost father and a diminishing love life that surround the central character. "Afga" includes laundromats, chess, missing fathers, hippies, marijuana, snow, lesbians, Africa, JMU and poetry.

"Afga" isn't so suspensful as to force readers to hang on every word or pull an all-nighter in order to finish the novel. The lack of suspense, however, is made up for by the presence of exceptional descriptions, metaphors and imagery. Bergman demonstrates a fine command of the written language as he creates refreshing and unique references to everyday experiences. This spices up an otherwise bland buffet of thoughts and storylines.

"Afga" is not your everyday, run of the mill mystery. It goes deeper than superficial plots and characters for a more personal, humanistic meaning. The author said that the book is supposed to be of "organic quality" about people, life and revelation, not elaborate plots and schemes.

by Ellie Loveman / contributing writer
JMU's Student Newspaper, The Breeze

Submitted by Vitae Bergman, posted on Sunday May 02, @02:52PM

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