Despite my initial misgivings, I didn't have any problems finishing this book. It was at its core a compelling and riveting story about a woman driven to murder, found not guilty by reason of insanity, and sent to a psychiatric prison facility.
To be inside Dominique Stein's head prior to the murder as she attempts to understand, navigate, and manipulate herself, her relationships, and her circumstances and afterwards as she continues to do so within the confounding structures of the legal and prison systems is intriguing and fascinating.
The author has paid considerable attention to detail such that every one of his characters, major and minor, comes across as authentic and recognizable. The reader knows people like these and what they can expect from them. The trouble with that is that, sometimes, this results in some superfluous material. The reader doesn't really need or even care to know what a character had for breakfast or what car they drive or even exactly what sort of person they are if their role is next to meaningless to the story. I can sympathize with the author because I tend to do similar things when verbally telling a story. I start off with what i think is crucial background information and childhood trauma only to have my listener interject with "Yeah, yeah. Get to the point."
I can also sympathize with the author in his attempts to find the perfect word to describe something. In fact I delight in those rare occasions I am reading a novel and come across unfamiliar to me words that end up being noted and remembered because they are just so right and I think I always needed that word. I recently acquired "juddering" from Theresa Kishkan's novella, Winter Wren. I needed that word forty years ago for a story I wrote and I'd always regretted not having the right word. So even though I'd had to pause to consult a dictionary in the middle of Kishkan's story, I didn't mind. I was rewarded. Her use of it was perfect and I acquired something valuable.
However, if I have to consult a dictionary for the meaning of sesquipedalia only to discover just as useful and meaningful and simpler synonyms then I am inclined to suspect pretentiousness on the part of the author. And so it was when on page 6 I was confronted with "Now the metronomic duet formed between her oleaginous legs and the relaxed exhalations sent her back to daydreaming." when describing Dominique's ritual morning run. Really? Oleaginous?
Now this was only page 6 for a new author just getting out of the starting blocks, so I might have forgiven him his wordiness had I not been struck again on page 15 by the description of a wholly minor and in my opinion superfluous character, a professor, as being a garrulous logorrheic academic. Hmmm. And I had to swallow "oleaginous" not just the once but three times in the course of the novel. I also saw tears that bifurgated and fingers that pointed in vituperative anger. It made me wonder just who the author was writing for especially when his vocabulary expanded to other languages to include "shadenfreude". Well, okay. But "Cheval de Frise"? And then "fonctionnaire" to describe not one but two characters? No, no, non.
To be fair, some of Dvorkin's descriptions were perfect. I especially liked the comparison of the prison guards to fire hydrants. Apt and amusing in its simplicity.
I thought this story concluded in a most satisfactory way for Dominique. However, while I understand the need to tie up most loose ends, I really didn't think it necessary for the author to wrap up all the things he did with such pretty bows.
So, in the end, I would judge this book as being a damn good story but one that cries out for a good editor.
Thank you to John for the contest. And thank you to author, Gary Dvorkin for the prize. I enjoyed my time with your book. I suspect my review of your first novel will sting a bit more (okay, a lot more) than your other reviews on Amazon and Goodreads but I hope you will take my words to heart. I think you have the talent to be an amazing author but that every author must have a good editor. Cheers!
Released 9 mos ago (10/23/2016 UTC) at Little Free Library #2873 in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada
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