The Resolutions

A Novel


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May 5, 2020 | ISBN 9780593167311

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About the Book

Three accomplished, globe trotting siblings in crisis take refuge in the last place they would ever expect—back home in Chicago, with one another—in this razor-sharp debut for readers of The Nest, Commonwealth, and Imagine Me Gone

“A vivid literary thrill ride . . . Take the journey. The pages will fly by.”—Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook
The three Brennan siblings are well on their way in the world. Samantha, the youngest, is a ballerina who recently joined the ranks of a Russian dance company; her brother Jonah is a grad student studying elephants in the rainforest of Gabon; and the eldest, Gavin, has stayed closer to home, living in Los Angeles and acting in a television series.
But as the holidays draw near, all three find themselves in profoundly troubling, though distinctly different, predicaments. Samantha is losing the battle to keep her drug addiction from ruining her career; Jonah, in his attempts to protect his elephants, gets in way too deep with a gang of ivory poachers; and Gavin’s TV show is canceled the same day his girlfriend moves out.
With their lives run aground, they reunite in their parents’ home for the holidays, where they discover that the bonds between siblings are unshakable. But with their personal problems threatening to derail their nascent careers and possibly their very survival, the three embark on a trip to West Africa in a perilous attempt to right their crooked paths.
The Resolutions is a contemporary look at three young people in the defining moments of their lives, by a talented author just getting started on a promising literary career.
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Listen to a sample from The Resolutions

Praise for The Resolutions

“A vivid literary thrill ride that adroitly connects D-list Hollywood, Russian ballet, Gabonese elephant conservation, Christmas, drug addiction, and adult siblinghood’s awkward first steps . . . Take the journey. The pages will fly by.”—Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook and The Reason You’re Alive
“This smartly written tale of three dysfunctional siblings in trouble is fast-paced, witty, and engaging—full of wry wit and insight into the bonds between brothers and sisters. Brady Hammes is an exciting new talent.”—Dan Chaon, New York Times bestselling author of Ill Will
The Resolutions is touching and thrilling in the most unexpected ways as two brothers, one an out-of-work actor, the other a research scientist in Africa, different as Cain and Abel, join forces to save their sister, a ballerina whose addiction to heroin is killing her. Taking you from a Russian dance campus to the poacher-riddled thick of Gabon, The Resolutions will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, wanting to call your family to say you love them. And to tell them you know exactly what they should read next.”—Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of At the Water’s Edge
“A harrowing tale of three far-flung siblings in crisis, The Resolutions is ultimately a sustained celebration of family in a chaotic world. With assured prose and compassion, Brady Hammes has crafted a debut as wise as it is engaging.”—Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek
“Brady Hammes makes a wildly diverse trio of siblings utterly convincing and their story utterly absorbing. The Resolutions is an imaginative and engrossing novel from a splendid new writer.”—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Perfume River and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

“Hammes gives readers three sympathetic, compelling characters trying to find themselves as they grapple with adulthood and the reality of not having accomplished as much as they’d planned. Lovers of character-driven fiction are in for a treat with this debut, which invites them to care about the Brennan siblings and to fully invest in their individual and shared stories, which intertwine in surprising ways.”—Booklist
“[An] entertaining debut . . . Hammes brings his three fractious main characters to riotous life and turns their reunion into a life-changing journey. . . .This reads like a clever mash-up of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, Romain Gary’s The Roots of Heaven, and Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States, and delivers thrills while finding empathy for the cast’s troubled souls.”Publishers Weekly
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The Resolutions

Part One


She stood in a thicket of trees at the edge of campus, this place she now called home, a Russian dance company two hundred kilometers northeast of Moscow. The sun hung low in the sky, dropping with the temperature, and her toes were numb from hiking through snow. She’d been gone all afternoon, and now she was late for the dinner party, which posed a significant problem because prolonged absences didn’t go unnoticed at a place like this. Nikolai, the director of the company, presided over his dancers with the omniscience of a cult leader, and Sam knew she would need a good excuse to explain her disappearance. Unfortunately, no one was buying her excuses anymore.

Nikolai’s father was a steel oligarch who had purchased the estate as a summer retreat for his family, but then the family stopped speaking to one another so Nikolai claimed it for himself. He amassed a roster of choreographers and dancers from across the globe, and hired a team of contractors to refurbish the grounds. He erected a dozen small cottages—little two-bedroom units the dancers shared—and commissioned a famous architect to design the studio space, a three-thousand-square-foot glass cube situated amid dense conifer forest. Nikolai referred to the property as Château Oksana—named for his mother—but everyone else called it campus. Sam imagined it was the closest thing she would ever have to a proper college experience, probably not so different from those fancy private academies in New England. She slept in what was essentially a well-appointed dorm room, attended classes at a rehearsal space rather than a lecture hall, and took her meals in an upscale cafeteria. Even now, in mid-December, everything blanketed in a foot of snow, the grounds were impeccably groomed, the sidewalks brushed and cleared, the trees hung with decorative lights. There was an onsite staff to attend to the dancers’ needs, nothing more than a phone call away, yet it was a suffocating kind of luxury, like being held hostage at Versailles.

At the center of campus was the grand manor, a ten-thousand-square-foot palace that served as the social hub. She watched a procession of black SUVs unload passengers at the entrance, where Nikolai stood greeting a parade of sparkling men and women in formal attire. When he turned to kiss the cheek of an elderly, silver-haired woman, Sam made a break for it, sprinting past the rehearsal space and the gym and finally to her cottage. Once inside, she threw her coat on the bed and removed the small baggie printed with smiley faces. Restraint was not a thing she normally possessed in moments like this, but she was late and she needed to keep her head up through the party, so she stashed the baggie at the bottom of her sock drawer, a reward deferred. She moved to the bathroom and did a quick pass of makeup before slipping into a sleeveless black dress. She dabbed concealer on her forearm to mask the bruise, then looked in the mirror one last time, a woman with a question.

Can you do this?

Sam stepped outside and hurried toward the ballroom, her heels clacking against the sidewalk, her shoulders burning against the wind. She should have brought a coat, but her head was not clear, and when her head was not clear, she forgot things like coats. It had been two days since she’d gotten high, and that was a problem.

Once a month, Nikolai threw a formal dinner party at the estate. He invited colleagues from the ballet world as well as friends from Moscow, mostly men who enjoyed mingling with the dancers. A few of the guests came for legitimate reasons, but most—the musicians, the minor celebrities, the baggy-suited hedge fund managers—came to gawk and make lewd sexual innuendos about “first position.” Sam found the events reprehensible, as if she were part of a parade of dancing prostitutes. At the last party, she poured a glass of Chianti on the head of a sweet-talking investment banker after he put his hand on her ass and whispered stunning into her ear. After the incident, Nikolai placed her on an informal probation to ensure a similar embarrassment didn’t befall another of his guests. Sam, however, made it clear to him that the best way to prevent future incidents was to instruct his guests to keep their f***ing hands to themselves.

She’d been summoned to tonight’s party to meet a new choreographer Nikolai had recruited, though most of the names he’d promised had yet to materialize so she wasn’t expecting much. The two productions the company had mounted since her arrival had been savagely reviewed, which Sam attributed to their hack choreographers, one of whom was plucked from the Russian equivalent of Dancing with the Stars. The company’s cachet had taken a blow in recent months, and Sam knew Nikolai needed a win as much as she did.

She entered the hall and scanned the crowd. Her arrival had drawn little notice and for this she felt a speck of relief. An old man was butchering Vivaldi on the piano, and tuxedoed waiters floated around the room with trays of hors d’oeuvres that appeared untouched. A few girls in tall heels and short dresses were huddled at the bar, cocktails in hand, chatting in a language she’d made no attempt to learn. She looked around the room: the crystal chandelier hanging from a forty-foot ceiling, the nineteenth-century watercolors adorning the walls, the Steinway piano. It was all somewhat surreal in its extravagance: the campus, the catered meals and personal trainers, even this dress she was wearing, a dress she hadn’t paid for but that probably cost more than most people made in a week, maybe a month. Her talent had shown her so much of the world, taken her so far—Chicago to New York, New York to Moscow—yet she still felt as if she’d been pulled into a terrible black void.

“Sam,” came a voice. She turned to see Marie, the only other American in the company, walking toward her. “Nikolai’s been looking for you. Where have you been?”

“I went into town,” Sam said.

“Is everything okay?” Marie asked.

Everything was not okay, but she wasn’t about to open up about it during cocktail hour, so instead she asked Marie to join her for a cigarette.

“It’s freezing outside,” Marie said.

“We’ll be quick,” Sam said. “Please? I need to get out of here.”

“You just got here.”


They stepped outside and Sam pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse, handing one to Marie.

“Where’s your coat?” Marie asked.

“I forgot it.”

“How do you forget your coat?”

Sam shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“What I want to know,” Marie asked, cupping her hands around the lighter, “is what you were doing in town?”

“I went to see a friend.”


“Just some guy.”

“Really?” Marie asked, smiling, wanting more. “You walked all the way to Yaroslavl?”

“It’s not that far.” Which was true. Thirty minutes round trip if she hurried, which she often did.

“Yeah, but in this weather?”

“I jogged,” Sam said with a shrug. “It was a good workout.”

“So who is he, this guy? And why am I just now hearing about him?”

His name was Ivan, and he was a twenty-one-year-old high school dropout who cobbled together a living by repairing broken computers and selling heroin from the apartment he shared with his grandmother. Sam had met him shortly after arriving in Russia. It was one of the rare occasions when Nikolai permitted an off-site field trip to a restaurant in town, and Sam had spotted him smoking outside: a skinny, ratty-looking kid with bloodshot eyes. He spoke broken English, but Sam communicated her needs with a little tap on the forearm and a raise of the eyebrows. She ended up getting his phone number and enough drugs to get her through the week. She kept in touch with him after that, sneaking away from campus whenever her supply ran low. “No one,” she finally said. “It’s kind of over anyway.”

“So mysterious,” Marie said, extinguishing her cigarette. “You almost done? I’m freezing.”

Inside, the conversation had quieted and Nikolai was instructing everyone to move to the dining hall for dinner. As the crowd filtered out, he approached Sam and put a hand on her shoulder. “You’re late to the party,” he said.

Nikolai was close to six and a half feet tall, with a mane of blond hair working its way toward white. He wore a tuxedo and an ostentatious watch and glossy crocodile shoes. Everything about him seemed to be cut from the finest, most expensive cloth, and he made sure to flaunt this air of elegance to everyone he met.

“I went into town,” Sam said. “For personal items.”

“We have drivers for that.”

“I felt like walking.”

“You’ve been here long enough to know that’s not how it works.”


“You know there’s a reason they call it a company, Samantha. I try to run it like a business. I take care of my employees, provide help when they need it.”

Sam plucked a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. Nikolai stared at her, waiting for a response.


About the Author

Brady Hammes
Brady Hammes is a writer and documentary film editor living in Los Angeles. The Resolutions is his first novel. More by Brady Hammes
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