I’m not going to lie. I am very surprised I made it all the way through this one. VERY surprised. If you’ve followed me for a while you’re aware I’m not the biggest fan of self-published works. I took a chance on this one, because the author reached out to me about a review copy*, but I was a bit overwhelmed at the time and asked him to check back in and he did so very politely. So I figured the least I could do would be to give the book a go.
The reason I don’t read self-published novels often is because they usually haven’t been through a full editing process. Some have had some sort of editing, but most haven’t had the full process (developmental, content, line, copy and proofreading). Unfortunately for this novel, if it did go through the full process, I couldn’t tell and that sucks because the story had a lot of potential and I could tell that as I forced myself to keep reading.
Let’s start with the writing. Southern is clearly a well read author with the ability to write well, but the entire voice of the story was off. It ended up being 200+ pages of being blathered to by the protagonist. Read these two passages:
“I have a confession to make. It’s not that I didn’t want to tell you; it’s more how I went about saying it. You see, most people, when they’re confessions something, want to cleanse themselves; they want some kind of absolution for what they’ve done. They want to be forgiven and made to feel better, to be able to start again. That’s why so many of them turn to God; God doesn’t remind them of what they’ve done. he forgets about it. If other people can’t get over the hump, that’s their problem: Jesus saves everyone.” (16)
“I left the Sears building and walked out into bright sunshine. I felt a weight had been taken off me. I looked at the faces of the people who passed me to see if they could see it, too. They smiled at me. I stopped by the window of a department store and saw a middle-aged man staring back at me. He was greying and balding and on the thinnish side, though nothing that a good meal wouldn’t fix. He mimicked every move I made. He frowned, smiled, stuck his tongue out at me. If I had to describe him to you I would say he looked relieved, though I’m sure you wouldn’t believe it.” (223)
Now they’re not bad, per say, but imagine that for an entire book. Honestly, if I had the 50 page or 80 page or whatever page rule I would’ve stopped reading, but I don’t so I powered through. Southern, could’ve helped himself out if this would’ve been turned into a journal or even an epistolary novel. At least then the protagonist talking to “the reader” would make sense, but it wasn’t and it didn’t.
The second thing that really bothered me was the copy editing. In general the book was well proofread. I only found one or two spelling/grammatical errors, but the copyediting needed to be a lot better. Check out these two:
“I sat next to her and did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I expected her to pull away, but she didn’t. She leaned her head on me. I wondered what Handshaker would have to say about it, or Rashelle for that matter.” (117)
“I’m trying to explain to you, if you haven’t already got it, how I came to be here. You know how she got here. You will have made up your mind.” (185)
The second, you could get away with saying the author was purposefully being obtuse, but if that is the case then the entire book was purposefully obtuse (aka almost unreadable). I’m a pretty smart person, but that line and the last line were enough to piss me off because they were just so obtuse, so blah and just so oddly written that even if I could’ve gotten over the protagonist’s constant breaking of the fourth wall, lines like the last one would’ve just put me over the edge. The first line, just made me go “What?!, What did you do to her? Why would you not say what you did rather than allude to it obscurely?”
There is so much more to talk about, including the revelation of the “whodunnit” half way through (which could actually work, but completely through off the structure of the novel in this version) or the weird way he wrote about sex and bodies (I think it was supposed to represent how awkward bodies and sex are, but it was really just gross/creepy – read some of the quotes below), but I’ll spare you.
The saddest part, is that the story has so much potential. If you kept all the characters and story mostly the same and just rewrote it with a better perspective and better editor, it could easily be one of those thrillers you see flying off the shelves, unfortunately it’s not.
Recommendation: It’s a definite no for me. If you are at all interested, I would recommend reading some of the Goodreads reviews. The star-ratings are pretty high (3.81/5 – I struggled to decide between a 1 or 2), even if their feedback isn’t all that glowing. Most mention similar things that I do and a couple even say they couldn’t make it through the book because of the above mentioned issues. I honestly believe the story has potential and maybe even the style could work, but it would require a different caliber of author.
*I received a copy of the book from the author in return for an honest response. No compensation was received.
Opening Line: “The thing I hate about flats is the people in them.”
Closing Line: “But maybe some of you have been listening to what I’ve been saying and understood me, and to those I leave my little girl, and all the little girls like her, in your safe keeping.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Daddy Dearest
“Powerless people fantasies about revenge all the time; it’s one of my specialties.” (7)
“Sex is ridiculous when you’re young and beautiful—and how many of us can say we are or were? When you’re older it’s a farce. Get it over and be done with.” (35)
“No, I’m not telling you the truth, I’m lying. I’m lying because I’m scared. I’m scared of the consequences. I don’t even know what the consequences are. Everyone tells you telling the truth is the best thing, but no one does. Lying is easy and it’s second nature. It’s my second nature, I was born that way.” (71)
“Children are not normally good clocks though they can be a reliably depressing chronometer when they want to be, marking the hours and years of your life. I didn’t need my daughter to understand quantum physics at the moment. I needed her to count accurately.” (100)
“Maybe the reason they lost interest in me was because I’d lost interest in them. Everything they did grated on me: the way they ate, the way they spoke, the things they said. I started to see deformities and bumps and moles and hair I’d never seen before; I heard snorts and sniffs that were never there when we first went out and each one tripped razor wire in my head. It was the noise thing again.” (146)