Thursday, November 25, 2010

Galveston by Nic Pizzolato

A tough guy tries to protect an innocent

I enjoyed this story – the writing was beautiful and the dialogue economical and evocative. Roy Cady, the inarticulate muscle for a loan shark, gets set up, which kicks off a classic American tale of a guy and a girl on the lam. Haunted by yearnings for the happy childhood he never had, Roy, against his better judgment, gets involved with an unstable young woman and her “sister,” trying to set them on the right path. This is the type of novel with a hero equipped with testicles so large he needs a forklift to drag them around the country roads and all the women are treacherous whores with shapely culus. The very fine prose redeems the latent silliness. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the few not very plausible WD-40’d plot twists. I think he could have left it a little more open ended.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alexandra by Valerie Martin

An enchanted island, a knife throwing amazon, an aging ladies man and a labyrinth

In New Orleans, a beaten down government bureaucrat meets a cool unattached bartender, the Alexandra of the title. Little does the bureaucrat realize he resembles a key figure from her past. He falls in love or lust with her and when she asks him to come to the island so she help her “best” friend with an impending childbirth, he discards his old life to say yes. After a while he figures out how to make her erotically attached to him (not so difficult really). At a certain point, the plot breaks down and I couldn’t figure out how it ends or what I was supposed to feel at the end. But the story was strangely absorbing, like a fairy tale. Vividly presented.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blame by Michelle Huneven

What is a life? Accumulated moments, or one defining action? And what if you wasted your life, not really being true to your impulses, but by being someone better?

I enjoyed this book, though it took some pages to get into it as it has an off putting prologue that only makes sense at the end of the book. The themes of this novel are much deeper than they appear.  I want to reread it already – just because the clues are so cleverly hidden at the beginning. The main character is Patsy MacLemoore. She kills a mother and a little girl while driving drunk and gets sent to prison, which is depicted (accurately I’m sure) as a soulless violent place. Patsy has very little emotional reaction in the prison scenes, which makes it hard to “get” her. But she reacts quite a bit in the last part of the book when she’s learning to be human again. Patsy wants to punish herself in prison, and afterwards. She knows she has to change her instinctive reaction to things. We get two glimpses early of the irrepressible Patsy, the mouthy Patsy, the kind of mean obnoxious drunk Patsy. Then after the accident and the horrors of prison, which truly is a punishment, the forced-to-be-good Patsy. The scared straight Patsy. The repression of every normal mischievous urge thereafter. Therefore, when the plot twist happens (which feels a bit contrived), Patsy’s resentful that no one applauds her life of repression and good works. Was it worth it – all that self sacrifice?

She’s relieved when she realizes she doesn’t have to interact with the saintly guy whose wife and kid she thought she murdered. He’s boring. The final scene reunites the characters in the prologue. Her life has been interrupted. Her new life might not be so good but at least it’s hers.