Friday, August 10, 2012

October Baby, by Eric Wilson (B&H Books)

I'm sure October Baby the movie is wonderful, but, having read Mr. Wilson's novelization, I feel no overriding need to see it.  Experience has shown time and time again that the written page can attain a multidimensional property, depth of insight and characterization, richness of viewer/reader involvement, that the silver screen struggles--often in vain--to achieve.  Don't get me wrong, I can immerse myself into a great movie as much as the next guy.  But the film version would require a near-magical quality to approach what the author delivers in October Baby the book.

For those not yet acquainted with the story, Hannah, a high school student with aspirations for the stage, falters during a prime performance.  In fact, she passes out in the middle of one of her lines.  Attempts to discover the source of this and other niggling maladies that plague the otherwise seemingly healthy girl lead to a stark revelation.  Not only is she adopted, but she's the survivor of a botched abortion.  This knowledge sends her on a quest to find her birth mother, despite the protestations of her adoptive parents and the cautions of her best friend, Josh.  Still, Hannah, ultimately with Josh's help, embarks on her journey under the guise of taking a spring break trip to New Orleans with a group of friends; a trip that just happens to take her past the city in which she was born.

A cast of unique supporting characters colors the storyline with grit, hilarity, and poignancy brought to their fullest brilliance under the skilled pen of best-selling author, Eric Wilson.  It's quite apparent from the characterization and dialog that Mr. Wilson is very much at home with this genre.  He pulls you from the softness of your sofa onto the bumpy back seat of a dilapidated van trundling down the interstate toward the Big Easy, sharing the sights, smells, and sensibilities of teenagers on a lark.  Transports you from the comfort of your own existence into the troubled world of a young girl whose life has suddenly been turned upside down and now has no idea what part truth plays in it.  It just grabs you and doesn't let go at the turn of the last page.  If it doesn't grab you, you might want to check yourself for a pulse.

This tale relates one of the realities of abortion smothered by politcal correctness.  Those on the pro-abortion side will dismiss it as lopsided propaganda (as has already happened in reaction to the movie).  Those on the pro-life side will laud it for its honesty and fearlessness in addressing such a heart-wrenching issue.  Those in the middle, those who don't want to care...well, they'll continue not to care.  Maybe.
Sound heavy?  No, not really.  The journey is often painful, but the destination is emotionally satisfying, like most great novels.  Highly recommended, especially for those in the middle.

Oh, and yeah, I'll see the movie.  I mean, you know...

And another 'oh'.  October Baby is due for release on September 1st.  Get in line.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Discovery, by Dan Walsh (Revell)

Had to review this one for two reasons.  First, it's a hybrid contemporary-historical piece.  I love those.  I've written two of them.

Second, the historical part covers WW II, the Greatest Generation era.  I love that era.  I've written in 1.5 of them.  But then, this isn't about me--no, really.  I just have this weakness of wanting to identify with really good authors who write the kind of stuff I love to read, and with novels I'd really love to have written.

Dan Walsh and The Discovery fall very neatly into each of those categories, respectively.  Here's why.

First, the book.  Micheal Warner, an aspiring writer, has just lost his grandfather, Gerard Warner, a world-renown best-selling author. That's another reason I'd like to identify with this--(Stop it!  Sorry, back to the book).  Michael has inherited a sizable estate from his grandfather, including his historic house in Charleston, SC.  It's not the real estate Michael values, though.  It's the enduring spirit of his beloved--and reclusive--grandfather and writing mentor that pervades every room.  But Gerard Warner has left his grandson something more than an aura.  He's left a manuscript--yellowed with age, never before seen--for Michael to find.  And read.  And, well, discover.

Mr. Walsh takes us back to the historical period using a book within a book, a story within a story.  Michael settles back to read with the notion of publishing it into what would be sure to be a best seller.  I mean, a secret manuscript by a renown author coming to light after his death; how could it miss?  But what lies between the age-tinged pages, revelation after revelation, urges Michael back forward in his seat.  Why?  To tell you more would spoil it.  And you don't want me to do that.

Second, the author.  Bravo to Mr. Walsh for penning so well an unforgettable tale with equally unforgettable characters.  His gentle prose glides the reader along effortlessly; his writing voice, though unique, never interfering with the story.  The tale delivers bittersweet poignancy and romance, but not without action, that settle on your mind and spirit in an emotionally satisfying way.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.  Highly recommended.