A book about a town that should have known better.
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Before I dig into the meat of this book review, I’d like to acknowledge some mistakes I’ve made in the past and changes I’m making moving forward. In my previous book reviews, I’ve been pretty salesy. I would emphasize the positive aspects of a book while ignoring its blatant faults. Part of this was, indeed, motivated by a desire for clicks on my ads to hopefully increase my income (or to make any income, to be honest). However, part of it was also because I was anxious about criticizing other authors when my own writing is far from perfect. (I mean, who’s perfect?)
In the end, though, this isn’t really fair to you, dear stranger off the internet highway and/or subscriber to my blog. You deserve the whole truth, delivered in an entertaining and professional manner. And with that in mind, let me tell you what I think about this book.
The Plainview Lottery: A Town Learns a Hard Lesson in Basic Economics by Markas Dvaras (also known as Mark Hall), would probably have been better as a novella or a short story. All things considered, though, it really isn’t all that bad. The prose is clean, clear, and reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. And the plot of this book is similar to the Stone Soup folktale. I loved that story as a kid, so this really tapped into my nostalgia. However, because this is, at best, a novella-worthy idea stretched into a full-length novel, there are a few issues.
First, there is a lot of repetition. A LOT of it. The characters repeat lines and phrases. The narrative repeats descriptions of places and actions. Some of this verges on hypnosis. And as someone with genuine, clinically diagnosed OCD whose mental loops can be triggered by repetition, it was right on the border of uncomfortable for me. (Side note for those who are unaware due to popular misconceptions: OCD is less about handwashing and more about uninvited mental stutters. Think— anxiety and an annoying song had a kid. OCD manifests a little differently for different people. But that anxiety + annoying song analogy is EXTREMELY apt for me. But, I digress.)
Second, the townspeople who begin as naive, not very bright, and loveable start to take on a slightly creepy vibe as this charade draws out. And I don’t think it’s intentional because this is not a horror story. The citizens of Plainview obsessed over the lottery without openly questioning it. They walked around with chipper, happy-go-lucky attitudes for months. And it started to remind me more and more of The Stepford Wives (which, I admit, I’ve only seen the movie version thus far).
Third, we only meet about five women in the novel. And they’re all either accessories to their husbands or literally asked to make sandwiches. If I have to explain why this is a problem, you probably should unfollow my blog.
Fourth, with the exceptions of Old Man Miller and the strangers from out of town, all of the non-women characters feel like variations of the same person. They use the same phrases. Make the same unfunny jokes. Think the same thoughts. Again, refer to my earlier comparison to The Stepford Wives.
In the end, though, I can safely say the story does NOT have a scary twist. It is simply a folktale-like story drawn out way past its limit. But at its heart, it is an innocent parable about only wanting as much as you need. And who can’t use that reminder from time to time?
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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