What would you do? This is always a fun question to ponder…as does Perry L. Crandall and his gram, until the lucky day when he actually does win. Perry is not retarded, as he will surely tell you if you make that mistake, he is “just slow.” Innocent and simple, Perry is ill-prepared to deal with some money-grubbing and unscrupulous siblings who crawl out of the woodwork to “help” him upon hearing the good news. But Perry’s gram, though passed on, has taught him well about who to trust, and what is the real value of things in life. This is a sweet book, a first novel by author Patricia Wood, simply titled “Lottery.” The story is told from the view point of Perry, which could be a real challenge in less-skillful hands, but Wood does a good job describing the world according to a mentally challenged young adult. The story mostly revolves around Perry’s scheming relatives, in stark juxtaposition with the constellation of quirky characters that surround him and are his true friends: a pill-popping alcoholic Vietnam vet who means well, a pierced and tattooed mini-mart cashier who is being abused by her father, and a marina shop owner, whose family “adopts” Perry. Author Patricia Wood paints some charming scenes which lay bare the world through the eyes of the truly guileless, but in many instances of the novel, the good characters are just too good and the bad, well, they are really over the top. The story also drags in the middle, when the overall plot driving the story is whether Perry’s no-good brothers will cheat him out of his lottery winnings. I also had a hard time pushing myself through the book because I dreaded so much what would befall Perry, and because the author was quite skilled at capturing the downright meanness of some people towards others that are different. For a warm-hearted, feel good story about what really has value in life, read “Lottery.”
Monthly Archives: April 2013
I just finished a novel by Jill Smolinski entitled “Objects of My Affection.” Looking at her other works and the blurbs on the back of this and other novels, I would assume she is firmly categorized in the “chic-lit” genre. Too bad. First of all, I detest what has come to be called chic-lit, because it undoubtedly follows this formula: emotional basket case of a heroine down on her luck and recently dumped by a man, surrounded by snarky and shallow fellow female characters mistakenly called friends, all seemingly concerned with their next hook-up despite the world falling apart around them, and gratuitous references to certain name recognition shoes or long guilt trips over amounts of food consumed. Who cares? Obviously someone, because it sells. This novel and this writer have great potential. The story concerns a down-on-her luck gal, Lucy Bloom, who has been recently dumped by long-term live-in, has sold her home to finance her son’s drug rehab treatment, and has taken, in desperation, a job to clean out the home of a reclusive and crazy hoarder. The book deals with a lot of interesting issues surrounding the meaning of possessions, the ability to let go, personal sacrifice for others… and author Jill Smolinski has some talent to bring to bear and carry the reader along on this crazy tale. Most notably, she believably crafts the persona of Marva Meier Rios, an eccentric artist has-been who displays more personality than all the other characters combined. Smolinski’s has the skill to tell her tale in a unique voice which is cheeky, breezy, and fun, but sadly, she sells out by including insipid sexy scenes with a hot moving man (really? the character is consumed with what she is wearing in preparation for boinking some guy she hardly knows when she is essentially homeless and her son is flunking out of rehab?), and portrays her heroine, Lucy, as a helpless ditz all too often. I think Smolinski has sold herself short as a writer. She could produce a novel that deals with serious issues, but still maintain her fun and trendy tone, without having to resort to the commercial fiction chic-lit tropes. I’m just sayin’.
I hate to write a bad review, but in this case I feel I must. I picked up James McGee’s The Resurrectionist because it was billed as a “regency thriller” and promised an exciting mystery in a historical setting. I was hesitant, because this is a second book in a series, but a well-written story should stand on its own in spite of that. But, sadly, there were much deeper problems to address. The novel starts out with the escape of a brilliant madman from the notorious Bedlam asylum in a scene ripped bleeding from the pages of “Silence of the Lambs.” This madman surgeon, it seems, was incarcerated for performing bizarre operations on prisoners during the war. Now he has escaped, and the bodies dug up from fresh graves are turning up, exhibiting the same strange signs: skin removal, organ harvesting, and amputations. Enter the evil gang of grave robbers for hire, led by a particularly nasty thug, Sawney, and his prostitute side-kick, Sal. These two are hired by the surgeon to provide a fresh supply of bodies for his experiments. The case comes to the attention of an almost vigil-ante lawman known as a Runner, Matthew Hawkwood, who seems to be the only police officer who has not been fooled by the faked death of the madman, and vows to hunt him down. Despite the murders and chase scenes and ghoulish details of digging up the dead, the book did not capture my interest until well into it, because the characters were all reprehensible and uninteresting. Perhaps because this was the second in the series, I did not care one jot about the hero, Hawkwood, who seemed wooden and one-dimensional. The character who peeked my interest was the mad surgeon, and I kept of reading to find out what his motivation was for maiming the dead. Alas, when revealed, that was disappointingly flat as well. Hawkwood, with a heavy dose of deus ex machina, discovers the locale of the fiend, and gathers his boys to assist him in launching an assault. Again, all of a sudden new characters are introduced, who I suspect appeared in the first book. In the climatic ending, when our hero confronts the villains, it turns absolutely comical. As everyone knows, when caught redhanded in the act by the police, a criminal immediately launches into a soliloquy on his philosophy of life and motivations. How often have we re-lived this scene in books when the bad guy stops everything to explain himself or how he executed his crimes to the man apprehending him? Oh, then it goes from comical to ludicrous. Instead of making a clean get-away (remember, the surgeon is a mastermind), he hands Hawkwood a sword in order to allow him a chance to defend himself. Really? The author did conduct extensive research into the era and captures it well in pub scenes and other descriptions, but sometimes even these interesting historical facts feel hand-jammed into the tale, as if the author felt compelled to tell us all he knows, whether it fits or not with the flow of the narrative. I confess, however, his knowledge on the practice of selling dead bodies for medical researches is exhaustive, including as many grizzly details as a reader can stomach. But as many horrific details as he could muster would not resurrect this stinking corpse of a tale.