Sunday, December 10, 2006


Novel, George Singleton, Harcourt Inc, 2005, 335 pp

I read this for one of my reading groups, who picked it from a list of my suggestions. It was not a hit with the group but I liked it just fine. Admittedly, it is odd; Southern but comical, a complete spoof on many levels, one of which is writers, writing, writers' retreats, etc.

Novel Akers, raised with his two adopted sibilings by eccentric ex-concert pianists, is now married into a completely inbred South Carolina family. He finds himself living in Gruel, his wife's hometown, writing his memoirs. After his mother-in-law's death, caused by a spark from her son's cigarette while she was breathing through an oxygen tank, the couple inherited the family home and a defunct motel. Novel's wife Bekah turned the motel into a weight loss spa called Sneeze 'n' Tone (excessive sneezing caused by various air-borne particles pumped into the air led to rapid loss of pounds), but she got bored with that and with Novel and left town. Novel next turned the place into a writers' retreat.

But many things in the town of Gruel do not add up, so the book becomes somewhat of a mystery, though even the mystery is a spoof. There is heavy irony being attempted here and I felt that for the most part, Singleton pulled it off. I mostly chuckled inwardly and sometimes laughed out loud. There is a boring part about midway through but overall the book was a relief from overly serious literary fiction.

I think many people, especially middle-aged women who like a good dose of heartwarming sentiment, could hate this book. Most of my reading group did.

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