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

10 comments:

  1. I read this book on a trip to Ireland with my family and finished it in two days. Then my daughter read it. Then my husband. When I got home I passed it on to my sister and my niece. Every one of us loved Perry and agreed that Wood did a masterful job.

    JoAnn
    http://everydaymatters.typepad.com/

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  2. I read this about a fortnight ago, and I did think Perry was a delightful character, and Patricia Wood made some excellent points about people who are called (in the UK)ESN (Educationally sub-normal) and how harsh society is on them. However, I thought the ending was very much a romanticised cop-out and very improbable which let the book down.

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  3. Sounds like it was a real hit with your whole family, JoAnn. I don't suppose it was the most realistic book I've ever read but I really did enjoy it...especially the great characters.

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  4. Herschelian, I have to agree that the ending is more than a bit unlikely but, for me, it worked OK as part of the overall fantasy of the story. For someone like Perry to have ended up in the situation he did would indeed have been very lucky...not very likely, though. :-)

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  5. I found the character of Perry to be pretty realistic (I'm a Special Eucation teacher). But, I have to agree with Herschelian -- the ending was too neat. It did not ruin the book for me though, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  6. Erin, I'm happy to hear that the character of Perry is a believable one to those with experience in dealing with people like him. I figured it had to be just based on the author's own experience in the field, but it was good to get some verification. Thanks.

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  7. Wow! Thanks so much for the lovely review!
    It's so interesting that you all commented about the ending. I wrote four different endings and just had to decide which fit most with my vision of what I wanted for Perry...ultimately I decided on the happiest of the four simply because I wanted it clear this was a parable for our times- about how we value money and intelligence and beauty - and how a person could persevere and claim happiness regardless of their ability- I concur it was author choice and know that for some readers it would leave them feeling a bit dissatisfied! It is the price I paid lol!
    much aloha to you all!!

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  8. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to say hello, Patricia.

    I was telling someone at work today about the book and that Perry and Keith were still in my head because of their great relationship. I love Perry's way of defining friendship by cutting his friends plenty of slack and not being offended by what they say or do because he knows they are true friends...and love Keith's loyalty and protectiveness when it came to Perry.

    As for the ending...you're the boss. My only thought at the book's ending was one of taking a slight look into their future and having to wonder how long the young lady would be content to live with Perry...would she jump ship if she found another true love? It's a wonderfully happy ending and I'd like to think it spoke of permanence for Perry's sake, but I'm a bit cynical these days.

    Ever thought about doing a sequel?

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  9. You hit the nail right on the head- relationships can be transient even for those who are considered normally abled...I wanted to give the possibility that she might or not- the thing is some happiness is better than none...
    Yes a sequel it percolating...at first I said no but then I got an idea...

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  10. Patricia, I'm happy to hear of the possibility of a sequel for "Lottery." That's certainly one I would be interested in reading as soon as it hit the stores. Best of luck to you.

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