This author knows his stuff, and this is a high-quality work – hugely entertaining and instantly engaging. I was hooked right from the off, and this didn’t fade; in fact, the more I read, the more eager I was to find out where this unusual tale was heading.
Alternating two parallel timelines, it accompanies a grieving, middle-aged U.S. State worker, back for Xmas from working in Afghanistan, who finds himself immediately hospitalized for a DVT the moment he lands in the U.S. As he recuperates and reminisces about events in the conflict zone, he has little knowledge that his home life is collapsing around him – though all he really wants is to be discharged, so he can play in a high-stakes, blasphemously controversial, televised poker tournament. Featuring wry, sardonic observations about U.S. life and its contrast with the Arab states, relationships and just life in general, this book is witty and smart, infused throughout with Bauer’s dry and very sharp humour. Wonderfully acerbic, the real star of this book is the writing itself. Fred Woody Jr. is something of an anti-hero, not dissimilar to Heller’s John Yossarian; he is selfish and indifferent, going about his business with a single-minded objectiveness to the politics, geo-politics and theology all around him – he doesn’t tend to give his opinion either way; he just wants to play poker. Yet, simultaneously, he has a good heart – in spite of himself – and is a smartly observant and reflective character – and, herein lies the slowly emerging narrative. Its satire (thankfully) doesn’t veer toward the left or the right, as such books tend to do; it is more about Woody’s personal journey, toward his own moral lesson, as with the comic wit still lingering stubbornly in the background, the tale begins to lead very slowly down an increasingly metaphorical route. However, at this point, without giving too much away, I have to say that for me personally, I didn’t entirely feel fulfilled when the book ended, though perhaps my own expectations had set me up for this; disappointingly, this did diminish the overall experience a little for me. But, for certain, I can’t deny that this is a work of fantastic quality by an engrossing and endearing author; wonderfully sharp and cynical, whilst being simultaneously cosy.
I enjoyed every moment, and with the short chapters,
couldn’t help but read “just one more… just one more…” Sure, perhaps there are instances in which
the punctuation could do with a touch of revision, but otherwise Bauer is top
notch, and it was a real pleasure to read – which I did in just a couple of very
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In : Book Reviews
Tags: john-bauer comedy drama war military