In his first novel, Rearview Sunset, author Brett Champan tells the story of Beau Jamison, a man on a journey to reflect on his life and all of the events that led him to where his is now and how they shaped him to be the man he is. His journey is filled with happiness, sorrow, joy and humor. Champan’s descriptive writing style gives the reader the feeling of actually being there, and if you have ever lived your life, loved and lost, and learned along the way, you will relate to this book.
The novel begins with Beau saying goodbye to his wife and children and beginning his journey of reflection with his dog Highway. The novel then flashes back to when Beau was a child, and at this point the reader gets the sense that the setting of Wisconsin is almost a character itself, with a mention of the Green Bay Packers and a hometown of Sheldon. The Wisconsin references don’t end there, as Beau drives on Highway 29, visits a friend in Monticello, and sees the Northern Lights. Many of the scenes involve nature and wildlife, and it is apparent how important this aspect of Wisconsin is to the author.
Beau’s journey is marked by many people that he encounters along the way in his path of life. Hillary is one of the first characters that the readers are introduced to. Beau is doing some handiwork on her house to make money after he was put on academic probation from college. It is at this point that it is made clear to the reader that the other characters can tell what a troubled soul Beau is. Hillary leaves him a note on his last day of work, writing, “I hope your days ahead bring good things to you, and may you find what you are searching for.”
Another older wiser character that plays a part in Beau finding his way is Earl, a family friend. With a house in the woods, it is a trek to visit him, but Beau does and it turns out that this visit has an impact on Beau for the rest of his life. Earl’s wisdom is absorbed by young Beau, and he carries what he has learned with him throughout the remainder of the story. While describing Earl, Champan writes, “Through the years, perhaps out of necessity for change in his own hurried life, Earl learned a balance, a constant adjustment to tension that kept the breath of life blowing through him and into others.”
Champan tosses in some romance in the character of Amber. The reader gets an understanding of Beau’s newfound morals and values, and it is refreshing to read. Amber plays a pivotal role in Beau’s transformation, and he grows because of his experiences with her.
I really enjoyed reading Rearview Sunset. It has a great blend of emotions – it will make you laugh, cry, smile, and reflect on your own life and the path you took to get where you are today. Champan blends personal experience with fiction and the result is an inspirational and relatable book.