Book Quote:

“He wants it each way. Both ways. All the ways. He wants his marriage solved, and he wants to be on the road with Rena, one of the undersea creatures strapped to the luggage rack, Yul Brynner with his head out the window, licking the air. He wants the Beanbags to smile, shake their heads, look at Hendrick’s charts and tell them ‘We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s a long road in front of you, but his chances for a normal life are. He may now be able to. We’d like to present this case at the.’ He wants to feel less lost.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill Shtulman (JUL 11, 2010)

Jack Lang is not great at being in the world. At the start of this quirky and original book, he has impulsively purchased a second ranch house – right across the street from his original house – at an auction. His wife Beth, a teacher at a local college, has just left him for his good friend Terry Canavan. Terry’s long-time girlfriend, Rena, may or may not be coming on to him.

To really complicate things, he is left in charge of his autistic savant son Hendrick, who has a penchant for memorizing the Weather Channel and mimicking advertising (in its entirety) and sloganeering verbatim.

And that’s just the start of things.

We never know exactly why Beth left Jack except for she’s just fed up. “You can’t just let everything happen to you,” Beth tells him at one point. “You can’t always just wait.” But Jack is out of control; his plans and ideas exceed his abilities to execute them. “Sometimes he thinks of his life like everything that’s happened to him has been something he’s at least half-fallen into.” That includes his mulch-and-garden business at Patriot Mulch & Tree, which is authentically described but if truth be known, is a little too heavy on the details (at least for this reader).

The novel takes place in an abbreviated time period and meanders along as Jack falls into one situation after another. For instance, he impulsively buys a huge fiberglass catfish from a defunct miniature golf course as decoration for a concrete tricycle path at the back of his new home. The point is made: Jack is unconventional and whimsical and Beth is solid and controlling. Still “he knows he needs Beth to save him from his crazier angels, or try to, and he knows, too, or hopes, that she needs him to try to save her from his plainer ones.”

The depiction of Hendrick, the autistic savant, is delightful, especially when he emerges from his shell to spout off Spanish or participates with Rena in a karaoke night; it’s hard not to fall in love with this child. The father-son interactions sparkle.

There is much wild black humor, despite the over-the-top, sometimes marginally successful characterizations. And there are fresh insights into what keeps couples together when by all natural instincts, they should fall apart. Drew Perry has a fresh and audacious imagination that shines through…again and again.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 20 readers
PUBLISHER: Viking Adult (April 1, 2010)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
EXTRAS: Reading Guide
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another quirky neighbor:

And another guy who doesn’t know what he wants:

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July 11, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Humorous, Reading Guide, US South

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