The Whole Way Home: A Novel
Country singer Joanne Lover is well on her way to stardom, and she’s worked carefully over the years to construct her image: sassy, smart, earthy, and not afraid to speak her mind. But when her independent label picks up JD Gunn and his band, Jo’s world gets a bit unsteady. Jo and JD have a past that goes back further than anyone can imagine, and an impromptu duet fans public interest in that past. It doesn’t take too long before an overly curious reporter uncovers one of Jo’s deepest secrets, and the ramifications will be huge.
Sarah Creech’s novel The Whole Way Home sounds at first like a fluffy, chick lit-type of story about a strong woman confronting her past. However, this story goes much deeper than that. Readers will learn about Jo’s past in bits and pieces, and each piece drives home just how complex of a character she is. Even her past relationship with JD is far from simple, and her small-town childhood hides some dark facets. At times, this is not an easy novel to read, but most readers will be satisfied with the decisions Jo makes in the end.
A near-death experience causes Allan “Vic” Vickery to reassess what’s going on in his life. When he’s hit in the head with a golf ball that causes him to go into a coma for a month, Vic travels to a place in his mind where he plays a round of golf with others who are in a vegetative state. When he awakens, the book chronicles the antihero’s midlife crisis in having an affair, leaving his wife and playing high-stakes golf with a syndicate.
Before his accident, Vic is making an effort to patch up his failing marriage with his wife, Angie. After he wakes up, and Angie hasn’t made an effort to fawn over him and “realize what she almost lost,” Vic doesn’t bother. His behavior with Angie, the affair with his neighbor Roxanne, and the negligence he shows in his stable career as an art teacher makes Vic a difficult main character to like. His near-death experience just enhances his greed, entitlement and selfishness.
Sometimes selfishness isn’t a bad thing. It is important to look inward and take steps toward better self-care. But Vic’s selfishness went a step beyond a life overhaul. When he begins his affair with Roxanne and floats the idea of leaving Angie by her, he makes it clear that his leaving Angie has everything to do with his attempts at his own happiness and nothing to do with Roxanne. Roxanne makes it clear that she does not want to leave her husband. However, triumphant from his first golf winnings, he asks Roxanne to move into his cramped, dirty one-bedroom apartment with him. When she refuses, he becomes angry, accusing her of not wanting to leave her husband because of her secure lifestyle and possessions. While Roxanne doesn’t refute his accusations, she doesn’t confirm them either. Her reasons for staying with her drunk husband were her own, and instead of respecting her choices and her agency, Vic lashes out. He does the same thing with Angie, selfishly projecting his own assumptions about her feelings onto her to justify his affair and him leaving her. Then he becomes sullen when she moves on with someone else. If anything could have taught Vic the value of his own life and that others’ actions were beyond his control, it would have been a near-death experience. But it didn’t. Vic’s story is rife with similar scenarios, and the “difficult lies” in the book point to not only his farcical behavior while he’s still married and cheating on his wife, but to the lies he tells his mother when the marriage ends, the lies about his coma experience he tells his doctor to get out of the hospital, and most importantly, the lies he tells himself to convince himself that his chosen life path makes him truly happy.
Vic is the perfect antihero, and while readers might not like him, they’ll find his story interesting. Anyone who plays golf will get a thrill out of the high-stakes golf games. Contrary to other brush-with-death scenarios, Difficult Lies depicts the story of a man who doesn’t do good with his second chance at life. Instead, Vic makes a mess of his life, and the ending is a patched-up laundry list of things he wants to accomplish to be a better person. But like his cleaning lady, Olivia, and her inability to quit smoking, I didn’t have much faith in Vic to break his cycle of midlife-crisis-level behavior.
The Salad Oil King
America has been seen by many as the land of opportunity for years. Many foreigners have been drawn to migrate to America to take advantage of opportunities to make a better life for themselves and their families. The Salad Oil King by M. G. Crisci, is a novel inspired by actual events that looks at this ideology and shows how it can go from making a better life for your family to being taken over by greed in the blink of an eye. Alfonso Gravenese, known as Fonso, was raised by his immigrant parents in New York City. During this time Fonso also watched his father, a fish salesman, work the commerce system to his advantage and quickly caught onto how he could benefit as well. Lessons he would carry with him throughout his life to making him a very wealthy man. With his childhood friend and protector, Ricco, by his side Fonso works his way from the meat industry to the oil industry figuring out how he and those closest to him could benefit financially. As in most cases when money is involved more is always better however the more you get the question is how much is enough? Ultimately what is it all worth in the end?
The Salad Oil King is an intriguing novel that shows the good the bad and the ugly side of business. Author, M. G. Crisci shows the progression of one mans lust for money and power and how those around him are affected both positively and negatively. Crisci draws you into the novel not only through the story but through the people you meet along the way. Through much of the book you can picture what is happening as you read while either laughing or shaking your head. Perhaps the most interesting part of this novel is watching a poorly educated man use street smarts and deception to amass millions and how long it takes before anyone starts to wonder how. Money is a necessary evil that Crisci shows no one is immune to.
The Lame Duck
Dr. Bob Cassidy, a caring selfless physician in a small rural Pennsylvania town, seems doomed for failure. During his two-and-a-half-year practice, Bob has been riddled with three mysteriously unsubstantiated malpractice suits. To add insult to injury, he is also surrounded by a group of powerful miscreants who wouldn’t love anything more than to see his career destroyed. Although Bob feels that he’s being set up when the attractive Angela Fratellobetter known as the Angel of Death malpractice lawyerseeks his medical expertise regarding her infected toe, the two, ironically, fall in love. Yet the plot only thickens when Bob decides to stand up to his enemies, instead of following Angela’s advice to get professional help.
Internist and author Bernard Leo Remakus offers his reading audience a view into the darker side of the medical world in his fourth novel. Remakus includes a host of carefully crafted characters that range from simple town folk to downright depraved individuals. In fact, many of Remakus’ well-developed cast will undoubtedly rub readers the wrong way, especially when they take jabs at meek Dr. Bob, who is clearly an underdog. Remakus’ lowlife cast serves another purpose in building the good doc’s personaso much more than readers could ever possibly imagine.
While his audience wonders about Dr. Bob ultimate destiny, Remakus amuses them by providing hefty amounts of information besides background on Dr. Bob’s life, his father, and his adversariesall punctuated with periodic romantic scenes. Remakus fills whole chapters in his third person narrative with apt medically-related information in connection with Dr. Bob’s patients, Angela’s physical conditions, other patient situations, and most importantly the real picture behind medical malpractice. Although the information may appear to slow down the plot a bit, Remakus’ purpose behind the information is to better define Dr. Bob’s worldindeed a foreign one, especially to those outside the medical profession. Besides all of the above-mentioned literary elements, Remakus also throws in random twists and turns along the way to keep his narrative moving. Closing unexpectedly, The Lame Duck is one fascinating read!
Jamie Kurtzs life has fallen apart. After graduating top of his class from a prestigious university, hes gotten a rotten job, his girlfriend has left him for a frat boy, and his rich father has just cut off his rent money. Homeless and jobless, Jamie goes to the coastal town of Kestrel Cove in search of a new life, where he finds an unusual fishing community and manages to secure a job on a lobster boat. What he doesnt know is that the community of Kestrel Cove is entirely convinced that a Russian satellitea leftover from the Cold Warrecords surveillance photos of the town while it passes over every evening.
As Jamie begins to explore his new community, he finds surprises around every corner: an ill-tempered wharf master, a mysterious millionaire who lives on a nearby mountain, an auto mechanic who never gets any work done, and a fight-crazy, motorbike-riding deck hand, to name a few. Jamie begins to find his place among these strange individuals and begins to gain a deeper appreciation of their way of life as he progresses on his own journey of starting fresh.
The narrative contains quite a few instances that seem like mere male wish-fulfillment: winning a fight in the lobstermens meeting, dating the prettiest girl in town, winning the respect of some of the wharfs gruffest men. But the fact that Jamie is reconciling his former identity as a well-educated pushover with his new role as a member of a town with an entirely different social structure makes certain that his development remains three-dimensional. Some of the characters are little more than tropes on legs, but others show an unexpected amount of depth. One particularly enjoyable element is Jamies undying devotion to the study of the Civil War, which he relates back to many of his seemingly unrelated experiences in Kestrel Cove.
The narrative takes a few unexpected turns, including a few point of view changes, that keep the story fresh and interesting. The subject matter is, at first, presented as the amusing stuff of summer beach reads, but the story goes through a few darker turns as it progresses. At 475 pages, the book sometimes seems as though it is stretching on longer than it should, but Bridgford creates a fitting ending for this wild and wayward narrative. Altogether, Bridgford has created a diverting and entertaining story in Hauling Through.
Running their own hotel consulting firm, Sandeep Sanghavi and his mother live an offbeat lifestyle, travelling around the country, occasionally receiving calls from Sandeep’s father, Van Ray, a once-famous astronomer who usually needs money. But Sandeep’s predictably nomadic existence is disrupted when Van Ray reveals that he’s found something that will change how humans view the cosmos. Soon afterwards, unexplainable things start happening. Texts that only Sandeep can see. Misplaced items miraculously reappearing and repeated requests from a someone, or something, asking to be introduced to Van Ray. When his cousins, mother, father, and father’s pregnant ex-wife all cross paths at a condemned hotel on the outskirts of Atlanta, Sandeep finds himself in the middle of not just the biggest scientific find of the century, but caught up in the equally explosive cross-currents of family.
Cosmic Hotel is a pretty good combination of family drama, mystery, and science fact/fiction, with characters that feel real, and, in a very believable way, damaged. What I found disappointing was discovering that the aliens were nothing more than a backdrop in a diorama of family drama, receiving neither elaboration nor expansion beyond what’s needed to highlight the struggles between family members.