What others have to say about Rules for Giving
… a scorcher of a debut novel. In the unpredictability of modern times, this story proves a testament to the journey many of us find ourselves on. If you look hard enough you will find novels with similar themes, that flirt with the bonds of addiction and where the rhetoric covers fairly typical ground, but few are as relatable to the reader as Sunderland’s offering. Compelling, and above all brutally honest, he naturally gravitates towards social commentary, exploring ethical and moral themes, and in his portrait of Gavin Oliver his novel soars. Smartly observational, Sunderland demonstrates the enviable ability to get beneath the veneer of his characters with pithy comments that illustrate, in a penetrating way, the duality of life. In doing so he makes that all-important emotional connection with his readers. Rules For Giving may be a male-centric novel but in its broad strokes it’s a sober look at life choices. More importantly, where far too many authors fail to come to a definitive point, Sunderland makes his explicit and he doesn’t pull his punches …
An exceptional debut and one that bodes well for future releases from Sunderland, Rules For Giving is recommended without reservation.
The fault with many first-time novelists is that they haven't studied their craft enough to understand the need for conflict; they may tell a good story, but unless it keeps readers turning pages, we are unlikely to come back for a second helping. Not so here. Sunderland has constructed a storyline that is so tightly wound the novel nearly hums with electricity. I expected this to be a bittersweet tale of young love seasoned with a few gentle admonishments to do good in the world. By the time I was a quarter of the way through the book, I realized this was a much bigger, much more intensely engaging story than all that (but with much of that good stuff in there, too). I had meant to take my time in reading it, but honestly it kept me up late a couple of nights in a row, and I put off doing other things to finish it.
Gavin, the protagonist, is certainly an Everyman character; his heart and intentions are good, but he is flawed enough that we can relate to him. The tension begins when the adult daughter of his ex-girlfriend shows up to confront him on some issues from his past. Coupled with that is an intermingled thread involving Gavin's business, and as the novel progresses, a mystery unfolds.
Sunderland is a fine writer who has clearly invested time and energy in carefully crafting this book. The Rules for Giving is an extremely impressive debut novel. Highly recommended.
--S. Kay Murphy, author of The Tainted Legacy of Bertha Gifford: A Memoir, and Amazon Vine Voice reviewer.
The contemporary southern California plot is complex, realistic and rich with characters dealing with issues ... abortion, alcoholism, homelessness, mental illness, GLBTQ identity and acceptance. More importantly, the sweet, brilliant, underlying theme that ties it altogether is that of the title itself, RULES FOR GIVING.
--Julie Steinbach, citing Rules for Giving in a commentary on gratitude at the Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation on November 20, 2016
Rules for Giving by Tim Sunderland is a well-written debut novel that combines the level-headed first person narrative of Richard Ford with the workplace intrigue of Joshua Ferris. Mr. Sunderland's aging protagonist is both smart and likable; his cast of supporting characters engaging and quirky. As the novel unfolds, Mr. Sunderland draws the reader into a sprawling sun-baked Southern California landscape populated by tough, lesbian private eyes and philosophical vagrants. As secrets from our narrator's past threaten his present, Mr. Sunderland expertly weaves a tale of lost love, missed opportunities, and regret. I highly recommend Rules for Giving by Tim Sunderland.
—William Bryant Smith, author of Free Range Men and The Late, Great, Thor McHugh.
Timothy Sunderland’s debut novel, Rules for Giving, is a taut, double helix involving his character’s attempt to deal with past relationships while balancing corporate espionage that threatens not only to ruin his business but also might prove dangerous. Factor in a once estranged son and a family legacy of alcoholism, and matters get complicated. And always, lurking in the background, are the moral and ethical conflicts about living in prosperous California among the homeless, downtrodden and mentally ill, and the protagonists’s unique methods of dealing with this dissonance. All of this is expertly mixed together by Mr. Sunderland to produce a novel of exceptional literary writing which is also a page turner that grips the reader’s attention. If this is a first novel, I can’t wait to read his second.
—Rich Luftig, award-winning author and poet.