Saturday, May 14, 2011


Jimmy Deane is simply destined to be an orphan – fate will have it no other way.  In the tradition of Charles Dickens, whose orphans are all larger than life and destined for spectacular experiences, Corie Skolnick presents Orfan, the story of one little baby boy who beat the odds stacked against him in ways that would make even Dickens proud.

If it were not bad enough that he would be born at a time when unwed pregnancies were still considered shocking, J.D.’s luck with adoptive parents would not prove to be the best in the world either.  It says a lot about J.D.’s childhood that his best friend and most consistent protector and mentor was the redneck Harley Davidson mechanic who lived in a rundown house next door to his grandmother’s own rundown Florida home. 

Gillis Lee Wainwright might be a redneck but the man has an innate sense of right and wrong that makes him the perfect man to fill in some of the gaps in young J.D.’s life.  Gillis provides J.D. with exactly the safe haven he needs to get him through the rough patches in his life – and J.D. (otherwise known as James Deane) has more than his share of those rough spots, the most spectacular being his amazingly hypocritical grandmother.

Orfan might be one boy’s story, but Skolnick uses it to skewer the world into which young J.D. is so callously tossed.  Along the way, as the reader follows J.D. from infancy to young adulthood, Skolnick tackles religious hypocrites and the television preachers they so often admire, racists and rednecks of various sorts, useless celebrities, and a society so willing to toss aside those who do not meet the standards set by the majority.

What makes Orfan so much fun, though, is how the author uses humor to make her most striking points – even when describing the most upsetting incidents or irritating characters in the book.  This is the perfect approach to telling a story about someone like J.D., a boy with so much patience and inborn understanding that he is willing to give everyone he meets the benefit of the doubt, occasionally even after they have done him repeated wrongs.

I should mention that I listened to the audio version of Orfan as read by the author in a presentation lasting over ten hours.  I was at first a bit uncomfortable with Skolnick’s cadence and reading style but it quickly grew on me and became an integral part of the Orfan experience.  (I still smile when I think about how she made J.D.’s spoken voice so eerily resemble that of the late Michael Jackson’s and I wonder whether she was consciously going for that effect.)  This one is fun.

Rated at: 4.0

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. I was wondering if the author was trying to link J.D. to people like James Dean and J.D. Salinger and thinking that your description of him made him sound like their spiritual kindred.

  2. C.B., James Dean is definitely a link back to our J.D., beginning when his adoptive parents (the Deanes) have to decide if they will honor his birth mother's choice of first names for him. In fact, James Dean becomes an important character in the book - this is a hard one to review without straying into spoilers.