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Saturday, 9 March 2013


After reading Keith Ridgway's book, this was a relief. It is a simple book, based around the solid virtue of actually telling a story. Or two stories, in this case.

There are alternating narratives here, both told in the first person. Arthur Opp is the first character we hear from, a man of massive proportions, nearly 50 stone, who hasn't left his house in more than a decade. The second protagonist is Kel Keller, a high school student with an alcoholic mother and a promising baseball career.

The link between them is Kel's mother, Charlene, who used to be Arthur's student. It's not a very obvious link, but it doesn't matter, the charm and humanity of the two protagonists carries the novel. Because we hear their voices, and see inside their heads, we identify with them, have compassion for them, maybe come to understand why they act as they do. It's hard to feel contempt for a person of such enormous size as Arthur when we hear, at various times, the contempt that he has for himself.

The voices are consistent, and the stories progress steadily, and intertwine, and come back to their own path, and then back together again. They are simple stories, moving, with characters that engage. There is no fireworks here, just a narrative that draws you in effortlessly and characters that you can care about. A simple, enjoyable novel.

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