Saturday, September 29, 2012

Toward You by Jim Krusoe

Who hears the cries of the lonely dead?

I found parts of this novel truly frightening and disturbing. I also thought the sentences were hilarious. Toward You is about Bob, an Aspergery upholsterer, who builds a helmet (the "Communicator') constructed of egg cartons and duct tape in order to hear the voices of the dead. The helmet seems to work, though not very well. Meanwhile, Bob is tormented by Steadman, a cop who suspects him of numerous crimes, and deranged Dennis, who feels that Bob had something to do with the death of his beloved rabid dog. Who is also named Bob.

Bob has a deadpan, slightly aggrieved voice. He earnestly labors on his helmet, much like Jonathan in Krusoe's Girl Factory labored on his lady revitalizing yogurt project. Meanwhile, Bob reminisces about the only woman he had a close relationship with, Yvonne, who dumped him. Inexplicably, according to Bob. Then one day Yvonne shows upon his doorstep, eight year old daughter Dee Dee in tow, searching for the dog who bit Dee Dee. In a surreal comic scene, Bob serves them yellow cake.

Eventually, the story turns plotty, though all the threads don't quite come together. I felt there was real pathos and horror with Dee Dee's story, who seems to be stuck in Limbo with Bob, the rabid dog who killed her. The deaths in Girl Factory were funny. The death of Dee Dee's wasn't. A crevasse opens up in the novel and there is real emotion under the dead pan prose.

In some ways, this novel is about trying or not trying to follow the rules in suburban American.  Bob tries to, but just can't figure it out.

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