Damascus by Joshua Mohr
Published by Two Dollar Radio
Love, sex, cancer, war, protest, and identity collide in a dingy bar located in San Francisco’s Mission District in Joshua Mohr’s Damascus. There is a surprisingly large and well-drawn cast of characters for such a short book. The lynchpin is Owen, the owner of the bar, whose livelihood makes the interactions of all of the other characters possible, and whose life is made somewhat miserable by the Hitler mustache-esque birthmark on his upper lip until he dons a used Santa costume to hide it from the world. Among the rest of the ragtag bunch is a divorced barfly nicknamed Shambles who has an unexpected connection with the unnamed man – referred to only as No Eyebrows for most of the book – who is dying from cancer. Rounding out the bunch are Owen’s niece Daphne and her protesting artist friend Syl, and Byron, the drunk Iraq War veteran Owen takes in temporarily.
It is impressive how vividly Mohr paints his characters, and how richly he weaves their stories in a book just slightly over 200 pages. Many of them have immense pain and anger in their lives, and have made non-conventional decisions, but even so they are beautifully alive, with enough humanity that readers in vastly different circumstances will still be able to understand where the characters are coming from.
Full of pain, anguish, and beautiful writing, Damascus may not be for the faint of heart, but it is perfect for readers who don’t mind having their heart torn out.
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