Broke and homeless at 30, Kelly Enright flees Arizona. Returning to her hometown of Portland, ME, her only plan is to track down her estranged but well-off father. But her twin brother, Max, is living in their deceased mother's home, and if anyone's more screwed up than Kelly, it's disheveled, misanthropic Max.
Max has just one obsession: film. In particular, his own unfinished project from a decade earlier, which he believes is a masterpiece in the making. He dreams of completing it, but there’s a major problem: Evelyn, his actress and muse, has recently disappeared. After seeing her name in the credits of a famous cult film shot in their hometown, Max thinks Evelyn's disappearance has something to do with the film, and an upcoming festival devoted to it.
Kelly's arrival upsets Max's plans for finding Evelyn. Enter Penelope Hayward, the film's star and Kelly's high school best friend. Now a major Hollywood star, Penelope arrives in Portland as the festival's guest of honor.
As Max's search for his lost leading lady becomes increasingly, absurdly self-destructive, Kelly must help her brother, who has never recovered from their mother's death.
Praise for The Sadness
"THE SADNESS is a moody, fascinating novel about fame, disappointment, and the burdens of family. Benjamin Rybeck writes with equal authority about film and sibling relationships and romantic obsession, and tells a gripping story along the way."
—Tom Perrotta, author of THE LEFTOVERS
"Benjamin Rybeck's THE SADNESS may be a first novel, but the control and assuredness of the writing makes it feel like the work of a much more experienced writer. It's a book full of wisdom about the fumbling, grasping attempts we all make to fill the emptiness inside us, a book that ultimately leaves the reader feeling less alone in the world."
—Joshua Furst, author of THE SABOTAGE CAFE
"THE SADNESS is a novel with film noir appeal: gritty and absorbing, with just a touch of glamour. Morally ambiguous siblings Kelly and Max, each compelled by their own obsessions and failures, succumb to the pull of home in order to resolve the crippling events of their pasts. With vivid, measured prose, Benjamin Rybeck delivers his characters from the depths of madness toward a quietly optimistic end, in which they discover something far more important than what they thought they were searching for: each other."
—Chris Cander, author of WHISPER HOLLOW
"With this impressive debut, Benjamin Rybeck perfectly captures what it's like to be young and lost, unprepared for adult life, and utterly broken by the past. Rybeck has so much to say— about celebrity, cinema, family, and art as both a weapon and a shield— and he says it all with great intelligence and wit."
—Mike Harvkey, author of IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS