Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Book Review

You may wonder how or why I am reviewing a non-food related book on a blog about food, but I can tie it together, near the end.

I finally finished this book. I pre-ordered it from Amazon so I got it right when it came out in June but it has taken me way too long to finish it. One because life got in the way and one because it's not my kind of book so I really had to push hard to get through the first third or half of the book. It's a chick book. I don't read love stories. If I do an Amazon review, I'd give it four out of five stars just because of that. The writing though is excellent. The story, if you like love stories and relationships isn't half bad, but I take one star off just because it isn't my cup of tea.

Those of you who don't know me are probably wondering why I pre-ordered a love story if I don't read them and then took the time to read it. Because the author and I went to school together, and at one time we were very good friends.

If you were to ask me in high school or ask me now even, about my closest and best friends back then, Shawn would have been in the closest five. Now those five might not feel the same way about me, but that's how I felt about them. After graduation we all scattered as some many tales of high school friendships go. I lost track of Shawn then and have truly missed him ever since. I really do. Over time most of us have somehow reconnected. A few of us are far from Columbus now so we aren't as tight as we once were but the emails and Christmas cards are there. There's occasional trip back home. And of course fantasy football.

I did try to find Shawn after high school but the rumors I had were that he went to OU, fell into the wrong crowd, got strung out and moved west. I don't know if any of that is true or not but he did head west. Last year my closest friend started a reunion website of sorts and through six degrees of separation managed to get Shawn's email address. She passed it on to me and I immediately emailed him back. To my surprise he replied! He's now living out in Wyoming, living in the skier's paradise he always dreamed of and just published his first book. I would also say that he has aged very well and I say he looks quite dashing and debonair. I'm insanely jealous of him. The being an author part, not the rest.

I'd love to be published. I've started two books that I think qualify as novels. One was about an economic coup of China by Hong Kong after the British handover, kind of a turning of the tables concept. I think I made it to chapter three before that faded out. I still have a file cabinet full of source material. The other is actually half finished and was about an assassination plot of Fidel Castro by a Miami business man. I'll be honest the plot is not that original, I lifted it from The Dogs of War. But I haven't touched that work in probably five years. Time is running out I think, though I can extend it a little by changing the name Fidel to Raul. I guess you just have to be in the right mindset or mood to write. And truthfully, I don't think I am any good.

So back to Jessica Z. I was blown away with the writing. Why? Because Shawn wrote in first person from a female perspective. To me writing fiction in first person is extremely difficult to pull off and then to write from the perspective of the opposite sex raises that difficulty exponentially. I could never do that and I think Shawn did it brilliantly.

Shawn really developed a relationship between the main character and her sister. And he nails it. He could have been writing about my wife and her sister. But it is astonishing because Shawn doesn't have a sibling. None that I remember at least. Nor were his parents divorced when I knew him and he pulls that dysfunctionality off with complete credibility. The relationship between the two sisters and the mom was almost the same as my ex-wife's with her mom. Shawn really did a great job of character development in this book.

I was astonished at things I recognized in the book that even though I have not spoken or heard from Shawn in twenty years! (Ten years man. Ten years!) I'm sure it is only natural, as an author you draw on your own life experiences. The physical description of Jessica I recognized right away. A large part of Shawn, at the least the guy I knew and how I would extrapolate him out to be, is in the character of Patrick. Another character from Dublin, Ohio? Yeah go figure. There were many, many more little details like that. I won't go into them all in case someone out there also knew/knows him and wants to read the book. And all of the sex in the book is so, SO Shawn. I think I even recognized a flashback or two!
I was thrilled when Shawn emailed me back. We only exchanged a few times and that's ok. I'm sure he is far busier than I am with the book and travel, a new book in the wings not to mention his own family commitments. He sent me a podcast of an interview that he did and it was amazing to hear his voice. It was as if we were back in high school, exactly the same. In the interview Shawn discusses that in order to not pick up another author's writing style, when writing he reads nothing but food books and really got into Michael Ruhlman, something we have in common. When I queried Shawn about Ruhlman I mentioned how I wish I could attend CIA but can't afford it, so I'm doing the local tech school culinary arts program. That is when he told me he worked as a sous chef at a resort in Wyoming. He may still in between books. And of course, I was jealous again.

1 comment:

Brook said...

I've had people tell me I should write a book cause I can tell a funny story but that's a lot of work. I write enough on these things and my recipes to satisfy that desire. And now I know an author through those six degrees so that is cool. Not into women's fiction that much, well, I read romance stuff but there is a difference. And I generally don't like first person but maybe I'll flip through this at the bookstore next time I'm there. Keep cooking says the girl who hasn't made anything but toast for 2 days!