Sunday, July 06, 2008

Book Review

I just finished reading a book entitled How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale. First, here's how I ended up reading the book in the first place.

Last month on Persephone's birthday I had to go to Topeka to take the GRE, so the whole famn damily went and we made an afternoon of it. After the test we stopped by the bookstore to buy a present for Charlie. Persephone and Articulate Joe stayed in the car while I went inside with Crazy Jane and Baby X.

Inside the door a woman offered Crazy Jane a bookmark, which she took and we went along to the back of the store. Crazy Jane looked at the bookmark and asked what it said. I made her read it herself and then she asked, "Why are they selling a book about washing cats?" I told her it was a novel and she asked what that meant. I said we'd go back to the front and ask more questions once we found the book we wanted.

When we got back to the front it wasn't immediately apparent that it was the book's author who was handing out the bookmarks. There was a large picture of the author next to the table, but the woman in the store had a different hair style and was wearing glasses. I thought maybe she was a bookstore employee trying to get people interested in an appearance by an author who would show up later. However, in asking a few questions and looking back and forth between the woman and the picture, I came to realize it was the actual author herself. I was secretly pleased that I had managed to find out who she was before I said something that assumed she was someone she wasn't. That was a horribly constructed sentence, but you know what? You can suck it. If you wanted perfectly constructed sentences, you wouldn't be reading a blog, would you?

Anyway, I said, "What's your book about?" She said it was a mystery. I said, "My wife likes mysteries. And, actually, it's her birthday today." So as long as she didn't insult my ethnic background, I'd basically have to buy her book. She told me a little more about it and then I told her we'd take one.

Now, as an apprenticed economist, I usually make all my buying decisions based on price. Just moments before in that same bookstore I'd decided to not buy a Boston Red Sox board book because the licensing fee the publisher had to pay to Major League Baseball made the book too expensive. But I couldn't very well turn the book over and look at the price in front of the author. But I had a general idea how expensive hardback books are these days (although I once bought a book entitled Separation of Church and State that was listed at $50, but that was unusual).

So, Rebecca signed the book to my wife and then Crazy Jane and I bought it. We went to eat at Olive Garden (Topeka is like our Disneyland, since it has all the restaurants Persephone likes that aren't in Lawrence), and while we ate we gave Persephone her book. She was reading a different book at the time, though, so How to Wash a Cat got put in a holding pattern.

I was reading a book about changes to the federal income tax policy, which is just as exciting as it sounds, so I moved How to Wash a Cat to the front of my rotation and started reading it.

Now for the review:

I liked it. It was pretty good. The story was enjoyable and it was capably told. Hale uses a lot of adjectives, which is sometimes distractive when the words seem unnatural, but it is also enjoyable sometimes when she describes something in a fresh way. The narrator's name isn't disclosed until the end of the book. This wasn't necessarily a problem in the way it was handled, but it made it difficult to think about the book or describe it at all. The narrator made some infuriating decisions, but they were believable. Basically I was reading and thinking, "Don't tell that stranger what you're planning to do; this is a mystery novel! Someone you don't suspect is going to try to kill you!" But the narrator didn't know she was in a mystery novel, so her decisions appeared fine to her.

Last thing: the narrator meets a male character and describes him in a way that I take to mean he's supposed to be ruggedly attractive. Then she mentions his mullet. What?! Does the narrator find mullets attractive? Does the author? That needs some clarification in her follow-up novel, Nine Lives Last Forever.

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