The last two books I’ve read have been polar opposites of each other. One took me agonizing weeks to plow through and the second one took me one rainy day to read. Book No. 1 was critically acclaimed, was written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, was chosen to be in Oprah’s Book Club, and was made into a major motion picture. Book No. 2 was a first novel written by an unknown special education major from Hawaii, and was kind of a cross between Tom Hanks in Big and the classic Flowers for Algernon.
The first book I hated; the second book I loved.
Book No. 1: I cannot tell you how relieved I was to be finally done with Love in the Time of Cholera. If the author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, himself walked up to me, offered me half of his Pulitzer Prize money, and begged me to read another one of his books (tough to do since he died in 1999), I would probably run shrieking in the other direction.
I don’t remember the last time I read a book where I didn’t have sympathy for even one single character. About half way through the book, I wished that the entire cast of characters in Love in the Time of Cholera had died from that disease in the first chapter. It would have saved me slogging through the book’s excruciating descriptions of the thoughts, misdeeds, and mental health issues of dysfunctional Columbians. Then to make it worse, I was so sure that it had to be me (after all, could all those critics be wrong?) that I watched the Love in the Time of Cholera DVD. Huge mistake—the dysfunctional Columbians were not improved by actually seeing them instead of just reading about them.
Book No. 2: The other book was entitled Lottery by Patricia Wood, the very funny, insightful story of Perry L. (for Lucky) Crandall, a young man who adamantly calls himself “slow” because his IQ is 76, and his grandmother assured him he had to be 75 or below to be “retarded.” The book is written in Perry’s voice as he struggles to adjust his slow way of thinking and acting to a much faster world. His grandfather and his grandmother were his teachers and his conscience as he grew to be one of the wisest “slow” people you’ll ever meet. In Lottery, it’s easy to love the good guys and boo the bad guys. This was especially important when Perry won $12 million in the Washington State Lottery.
I suppose this proves once and for all that I don’t have any literary taste. Maybe so. But if anyone ever tries convince you to read a book about maladjusted Columbians entitled Love in the Time of Cholera, just back away slowly, and tell them to put the book down and no one will get hurt. Tell them you have a date with Perry L. Crandall in Lottery instead. I guarantee you’ll have a much more pleasant read.