Friday, November 24, 2006

The Big Shuffle

ChaliceChick has inspired me to do my own review of Laura Pedersen's latest "The Big Shuffle". CC had started out with the first book in the trilogy, hoping to get a background for the characters, and found it not such great reading, so I decided to start out with the main feature itself and I'm glad I did. I'm not sure I will try to read the first two books; I lack CC's desire to cover the waterfront, as it were.

Pedersen apparently fleshed out her main characters in the first book, so that they appear in "The Big Shuffle" more or less fully formed and the reader is expected to tease out the details from their behavior and the situations.

TBS is darker, as mentioned in previous posts/comments, and this gives Pedersen a canvas on which to show the cast of characters, particularly Hallie, the protagonist, dealing with a huge, almost insurmountable, loss. As a former guidance counselor with youth, I found that a good deal of it didn't ring true; responses to the loss by most characters were often too glib, too pat, too inauthentic. Yet some of the response was truly touching and believable.

Despite the seriousness of the theme, Pedersen seems determined to represent Hallie and family comically. Dialogue and narrative seem inappropriately flip on occasion, as though the whole scenario of loss is a bad joke. I'm not sure why she would do this, unless the subject matter is too serious for her. Or perhaps she's trying to draw in young readers and feels she needs to lighten the mood.

The one Unitarian character is an older woman who spouts sound bytes about social justice and human rights but unfortunately sounds more like a caricature of a real UU, much more shallow than most of the UUs of my acquaintance. She seems like a UU that Garrison Keillor might invent, not a real one who actually does something about social justice.

The real religious leader in the book is the (Episcopalian?) pastor, formerly thought of by Hallie as gay, who comes to help out in the crisis and stays to offer longlasting support and encouragement, though you have to wonder about his boundary issues. He proves to be more useful than most of the other adults in the book.

But you know what? I liked the book just the same. Despite its flaws, it's a good story if you can get past the illogic of a teenage poker queen (or maybe I'm just out of date)who seems to know how to run a household with seven children. I found myself thinking, "gee, so and so might like this story", so I'll pass it along.

My sister will get it first and then she'll be free to hand it off to anyone who might want to check it out. There's a little sex in it, not particularly vivid, but parents might want to read it before handing it on to younger youth.

CC also turned me on to Laurie King's mysteries about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, so I've been working on "The Game". Now there's good writing! Thanks, CC.


LinguistFriend said...

My goodness, I just finished Laurie King's octology about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. Even Origen stopped at six versions. I may be stuffy
about moving on to a mere trilogy. I am reading Edgar Goodspeed's autiobiography, which is very charming.
You sound as if the visit goes well; good.

ms. kitty said...

The visit goes most well. I am savoring being in a place where the world is almost unremarked. The local newspaper is just that--local, with the world and national news mostly in the back pages, and the reclamation of Main Street rules the front page. It's frustrating and charming all at the same time.

I have especially enjoyed spending time with nephew Joel and niece-in-law Christina, who have both graced these pages in the recent past and who worry that their remarks may not "fit". I tell 'em "give us your best---we welcome it!"

I go home to the island tomorrow, to the cats and the trees. It has been a good Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately any "charicature" or stereotype is usually based on a certain amount of truth. There are lots of shallow U*Us who talk the talk but fail or refuse to walk the walk. . . and not just when it comes to social justice.