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Friday, July 25, 2008

Lottery

Perry L. Crandall’s definition of mental retardation includes the requirement of an IQ level of 75 or below and, since Perry’s IQ is 76, he is quick to point out that he is not retarded, just slow. Perry, who never knew his father, was doubly unfortunate to have a mother who wanted nothing to do with him and abandoned his upbringing to his Granp and Gran. But that’s when Perry’s luck changed for the better because his grandparents raised him to be a curious, happy and self-sufficient young man with a steady job and plenty of self-respect.

Gran always told Perry that the “L” in his name stood for lucky and, not too long after she died and left Perry pretty much on his own, he proved her correct by winning a $12 million state lottery jackpot. When all of Perry’s money-grubbing relatives, his mother, his “cousin-brothers” and their wives, suddenly became concerned about his welfare, Perry’s best friend and co-worker, Keith, decided to protect Perry from the attentions of his newly attentive family. Both Keith and Perry’s boss, Gary, soon found out just how difficult that job was going to be.

All of this is told through the eyes and voice of Perry himself and, despite Perry’s low IQ and his slowness, he is a diligent observer of what goes on around him. Perry considers himself to be an auditor, “someone who listens,” and he is a damn fine auditor, at that. He might not always understand the motivations of others or the hidden meanings behind their actions, but very little gets by without him at least having observed and made note of it.

I am unable to judge the authenticity of Patricia Wood’s Perry Crandall character because I have never really known anyone with a 76 IQ. I did note at least a couple of occasions where Perry seemed to express himself in words and manner that seemed to be likely beyond his capabilities. But someone like Perry who has studied the dictionary every day of his life since he was a boy could be expected to have an unusually large vocabulary. Whether or not he would be able to understand all the nuances of those words is a bit questionable, however.

But minor quibbles aside, Patricia Wood has created three characters in Lottery that I will remember for a long, long time. Perry’s innocence and good will make him into the kind of person any of us would enjoy being around. Keith, despite all of his rough edges, that include passing gas in public and using Perry’s dreaded “F-word” constantly, proves to be the perfect friend for Perry, someone whose loyalty is never in question. And then there’s Perry’s grandmother, a woman whose love for Perry is so fierce that it pushes him to levels of achievement that would have otherwise been impossible for him even to approach.

Paul Michael’s masterful narration of this audio book particularly shines when he is speaking in the voices of these three main characters. His reading skill, and variation in voice and tone, help to create three characters that become very real to the listener. Lottery may be one of those books that are perfect for reading aloud because I somehow doubt that the characters would have seemed as alive on the written page as they do in this audio version. These eight discs, totaling almost nine hours, really fly by and at the book’s end I found myself hating to lose touch with Perry and his new family.

Rated at: 5.0
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