I've said before that I don't like to critique published novels fro two reasons. One, I have failed thus far to get any of my novels published and to therefore criticize someone who is farther along in the game seems crazy. Two, tastes are subjective and just because something did not strike a chord with me doesn't me it won't for you and the last thing I want is to discourage anyone from reading.
But having said that, I do want to start talking about books I've read a bit more . So I've decided to take a certain formulaic look at each and every book I read and post them here.
I'm going to tell you three reasons why you should read each particular book. And three reasons not to. And I'm going to do my best to not spoil any of the plots.
One Mississippi by Mark Childress
published in 2006 by Back Bay Books.
3 Reasons you might like this Book
1) Great characters. The story is told through the eyes of Daniel Musgrove, a teenage boy that is force to move to Mississippi for his last few years of high school. The voice an characterization is dead on as is the portrayal of the secondary characters.
2) Time and setting. The author took me there. He made me feel like I was hanging out in the deep south during the 1970s.
3) The writing. The pace, the flow, the story-telling are all very well done. The scenes build upon each other and layered facets of the novel make this complex story come to life.
3 Reasons you might not like this book
1) Mark Childress is best known for Crazy in Alabama. This book i darker and heavier. The humour is more subtle. Stephen King blurbs on the cover that One Mississippi is the funniest novel he's read in ten years. Sure there are funny moments but trust me when I say Stephen King doesn't read much humor because One Mississippi isn't anywhere near the top of the funny list in things I've read the past decade.
2) Once upon a time I read books purely for entertainment, but since becoming a writer myself I tend to break books down and really study how they are crafted and how the plot is developed. Because of that I often figure out the plot twists and turns earlier than expected. This novel was no exception. I was not surprised by the dark turn towards the end.
3) The book comes across as homophobic, as I'm sure Mississippi in the 70's was, and the big climactic scene at the end felt more in touch with today's headlines than the my notion of the 70s. that is not to say it couldn't have happened then but it still felt felt like too much of a contrast with the rest of the novel.
3 Lines beginning with the 3rd sentence on page 33 of the novel.
It was all wildly expensive, all the money our parents had given us and some of our own, but we paid it and got out of there as fast as we could.
On prom day when we collected our tuxedos, they were a good deal lighter blue than we expected. We distinctly remembered asking for the Royal blue, whereas these tuxedos were ... Sky Blue is what they were.
Normally I'm going to stop there, but this particular novel had an interview with the author at the back and I want to share one quote I gleamed from his answers.
Mark Childress ~ But the best writers -- the ones I'd like to be like -- gather elements from their own lives and filter it through their imagination and all their experience. The aim is to come up with a story that comes closer to the truth than nonfiction, which you can only do by getting inside a character's head.
I love that quote.
So have you read One Mississippi? Or another novel by Mark Childress? Do you agree with him on that quote? Let's talk about something other than fire for at least one post.
And for more book discussion with a variety of authors please visit the BookRoast blog.