Hot Box in the Pizza District
At the beginning of Hot Box in the Pizza District, we encounter Tim, a weight-lifting, insecure young community college student who has received a box — presumably a birthday gift — from his estranged father. Tim needs someone to return the box, unopened, to his father. He encounters the beautiful Eileen. Eileen is older than Tim, she’s visiting from the state college, and it’s clear that she’s out of his league. Hot Box, thus, presents the reader with a two-prong story: what will happen in terms of Tim’s relationship with his father, and does he have any chance of developing a relationship with Eileen?
Thomas Keech can write, and he often reflects the type of personal perspective seen in women’s fiction:
“My mother loved to chat up any new person who came to her house. Soft-spoken and gracious, she allowed them to believe they were interesting, the things they were doing (or even thinking of doing) fascinating. She talked about books, current events, politics. You could tell she had strong opinions, but would never explicitly say what they were. Nothing could be said in her house that might possibly offend anyone. You could talk to her for an hour – or a lifetime – and still not have a clear picture of what she really liked, what she really regretted, and what she really feared.”
Tim is a bright guy, a straight A student, but he’s an awkward fish swimming in a small pond: “I used to be self-conscious around any group other than my old friends, thinking I would screw things up somehow, spill a drink, insult someone by accident, throw up on a rug.” Tim never actually matures, and he reminded me more than a bit of the character Pookie (played by Liza Minelli) in the film The Sterile Cuckoo. He has big needs and little capacity to fill them.
“All 8,746 women on (the state college) campus could intuitively sense there was something wrong with me.”
Hot Box is interesting and engaging, and generally portrays people in a realistic way (except, no spoiler, at its conclusion). There’s some confusion as to when the events take place. People use cell phones, but, at one point, Tim makes a call from a pay phone at a gas station. The biggest issue with this novel is that it could have run through a few more gears. I felt the story began in first gear, slowly shifted into second, and remained there until the last 50 or so pages. A few additional tone and rhythm changes would have enhanced the story. There is a good amount of action and a few surprising occurrences as the story reaches its conclusion.
Hot Box is recommended for those readers who do not demand that their protagonists constitute perfect and perfectly strong characters. Tim may be a reflection of more people in the world than the usual main figure.
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