It’s easy to sympathize with Gina, to support her and cheer for her as she copes with her fears and summons up the inner resources to confront them. It’s easy to admire Elisabeth as the strong, caring therapist and leader she is, but what about some of the other characters that make Relentless the compelling novel it is?
What, for example about Custer? A sad, victimized character caught up in a whirlwind of forces and events he never seems to understand. One of my favorite characters to write about, Custer, was totally unplanned. He just happened. A fledgling character, he epitomizes the foundational conflicts embroiled in the plot. Identified with the underdog, Custer just wanted to belong somewhere, but found himself swept along with the forces of evil as he automatically replayed his childhood roles trying to appease the alpha dogs and stay out of the line of fire. His inner dialogue offers an accurate perspective of gang dynamics as he observes his ‘buddies’ struggle and tries, ineffectively, to guide the powerful psychopathic gang leader in different directions. Custer is fundamentally a likeable guy with a good heart who is ultimately controlled by his fears and insecurities. In the plot, he serves as the truth-teller, given other life circumstances he would have turned out differently. In the end, Gus speaks to the character’s essence as he wonders ‘what would have happened if he had given the kid a little job’ in his diner. Good point, Gus, that’s something we can all wonder about.