About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Monday, June 22, 2009

#54 - The Lucky One

Dingdangity, I will be back on track to read 10 books a month by the end of June, even if it is quantity at the expense of quality. So there!

Every now and then, there's an author who seems to emerge from obscurity overnight, and is suddenly everyplace. Nicholas Sparks is one of them. A year ago, I don't think I'd heard of him; now, he seems to be all over the bookstores and best-seller lists, Nights in Rodanthe was made into a movie, and it seems there's no escaping the juggernaut. Rather than resist the inevitable, I succumbed on my last trip to the library, and this morning over breakfast, I finished The Lucky One (Grand Central, 2008). With a dust jacket blurb that proclaims the author "one of America's most beloved storytellers" or some such rot, I didn't expect high literature; I frankly don't know exactly what I was expecting. If nothing else, I figure there's some value in reading the occasional mass-market best-seller, just to see what the silent majority is reading. Living in Tiny Town, the mecca for everything alternative, where having a mere master's degree makes you undereducated, it's easy to forget that, um, many recreational readers do so Just For Fun.

All right, enough with the rationalizing. The Lucky One wasn't great literature and was pretty darned predictable, but it was still an amusing summer read. It begins by introducing a Bad Guy and Good Guy who are so obvious they may as well have black and white hats on: Keith Clayton, a deputy sheriff whose family owns the better part of Hampton County and who secretly uses the police department's camera to take pictures of pretty young things skinny-dipping; and Logan Thibault ("Thigh-bolt" to Clayton), a long-haired ex-Marine who's walked from Colorado to North Carolina with his dog, Zeus, to track down a mysterious young woman whose photo he found in the Kuwaiti desert. We learn that in the 5 years Thibault's carried the photo, he's had an inexplicable run of good luck, winning big bucks in poker games, and surviving one attack or explosion after another even when most of his buddies were killed. Victor, his one surviving Marine pal, is convinced that the photo is what saved Thibault, and urges him to find the woman. After Victor himself is killed, Thibault takes his advice, and begins his trek across the country.

Not surprisingly, the mysterious E. in the picture is none other than Beth, Clayton's ex-wife. You can guess within about 50 pages where this will go: Thibault is drawn to Beth, and gets on smashingly with her son Ben; Clayton is most displeased; and everything builds toward a dramatic, Hollywood-style climax as we wait to find out if and when Thibault will 'fess up about the photo, and what Clayton will do to keep Beth and Thibault apart.

To make a long story short, this was a slightly glorified romance novel. It grated on my feminist nerves in a few points: Beth's declining to help Thibault and Ben build a kite because it's "guy stuff" and she'd rather bring the lemonade; her asking Thibault out on a date, but insisting he drive and pick up the check; the denigration of Thibault's college girlfriend, who took Women's Studies classes, wore peasant skirts with sandals, and protested for socialist causes on campus. Given the time, I could probably do some extended, cynical musing about the target audience for this book, and about exactly what the author's trying to sell and what strings he's trying to pull ... but I won't. It's an entertaining afternoon, but forgettable overall.

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