on August 6, 2007
I'm trying to figure out why I enjoyed this novel so much. It's not the writing, which is fine, but ordinary. And it's not a page-turner of a plot--though it has to be said that I read the book easily in two days. It moves quite quickly and kept my interest at all times. But what I really loved about the novel was its first-person protagonist, Perry L. Crandall. It's hard not to fall in love with him!
I've heard the plot described as "high concept." I guess if you can sum it up in a sentence, it is that. Here's the sentence: a cognitively impaired (but adamantly NOT retarded) man wins 12 million dollars in the Washington State Lottery. From there the story is everything you'd expect it to be. There are good, kind people around Perry, and other terrible people who would take every advantage of his good nature. I laughed, I cried, I experienced the full range of human emotion. Really, it's just a very sweet book with a whole cast of incredibly endearing characters. It was simply a pleasure to read.
on August 6, 2007
Perry L. Crandall would like you to know that he is not retarded. Retarded would be 75 on an IQ test, and he is 76. Besides, Perry takes care not only of himself, but also of his Gran, a crusty, no-nonsense woman who loves him for who he is and lets him shine his light through his own accomplishments. (She tells him the L in his name stands for Lucky.)
Perry describes his life in simple and succinct sentences that manage to be full of wonder and surprise. As he speaks, we see all too clearly the many ways in which his nuclear family has failed him, but Perry never sees it that way. His glass is always half full. Shoot, his glass is three-quarters full--it only looks half-full to those of us too blind to see things the Perry Crandall way. And it's this innocence and optimism that makes his family betrayals all the more heartbreaking to the reader. We want to crawl into the book and protect Perry from the vultures, especially when he faces the biggest tragedy of his life.
But Perry insists he doesn't need protecting, and he proceeds to prove it us and to the three remaining people who care the most about him: Gary, the owner of Holsted's Marine Supply who has employed Perry since he was sixteen years old; Keith, Perry's heavy, flatulent, potty-mouthed co-worker; and Cherry a young, tattooed and pierced cashier at the local Marina Handy Mart.
When Perry wins the Washington state lottery we learn just who his real friends (and real family) are. His mostly estranged cousin-brothers come knocking, strangers arrive on his doorstep...and we hope--oh how we hope--that Perry can learn to distinguish the friends from the leeches.
There is so much to love about this big-hearted first novel. The characters are rich and real and alive. Perry's voice is fresh, authentic, consistent, and homespun-philosopher-wise...and then, there's the ending. Oh, the ending! The ending is so unexpectedly perfect and poignant and satisfying. I keep trying not to write, "Keep a box of tissues handy," but, well, keep a box of tissues handy. You'll need them. But--to use another cliche--you'll be smiling through your tears.
A Basic Overview
This book tells the story of Perry L. Crandall. (His grandmother tells him the L stands for "Lucky.") Perry has an IQ of 76 -- but he'll be the first to tell you that he "is not retarded." However, much of the world treats his as such. Most of his family has abandoned him except for his grandparents, who raise him. After the death of his grandfather, Perry lives with his grandmother, who does her best to teach him ways to protect himself--spend half, save half; write things down; learn your words; and trust only certain people. Perry has a job and a good friend Keith, who accepts him as he is. He fancies a girl named Cherry who works at the local mini-mart. But things take a turn for the worse when his grandmother dies -- leaving Perry to fend for himself. His family members swoop in and quickly ransack his life and essentially sell his home out from under him -- leaving him on his own to cope. Only Keith and his boss are willing to help Perry rebuild his life, and his family abandons him again. Then one day, Perry wins $12 million in the Washington State Lottery. Suddenly, his family is back -- circling like vultures. But his grandmother has taught him well, and Perry teaches them an important lesson: "Never underestimate Perry L. Crandall."
I think writing a book from the perspective of a mentally challenged person is difficult. Besides telling the story, the author faces the additional challenge of being true to the narrator's voice. I thought the author did a good job of balancing the childlike qualities inherent in Perry with the narrative elements needed to keep the story moving. For example, because Perry is treated as a simpleton by his family, they speak freely in front of him -- allowing him to recount their conversations and reveal their plans to the reader without Perry understanding what is going on. This device is used throughout the book, and I thought it was effective.
In addition, having the grandmother teach Perry to write things down is another device that allows the author to reveal critical information to the reader. Perry often reads the journals of his life that his grandmother created for him -- allowing the reader to get a glimpse of the family dynamics.
However, for the most part, the book is Perry's account of his life before and after his grandmother's death. As soon as he wins the lottery, I began feeling a sort of dread for him -- knowing that his family would be brutal in their attempts to wrest control of the lottery winnings away from him. One of my only quibbles with the book is that I felt the family members were just a little too black and white (with the possible exception of David who was a bit on the gray side) in their greed and evilness. And the sympathetic characters -- Keith, Cherry and Gary -- are perhaps a bit too nice and good (although the author gives Keith some definite issues to deal with). However, these are relatively minor issues overall.
I liked the choices the author made in the book. I felt she stayed true to Perry's character, and I was happy with the ways she chose to wrap up the story. The quote by Oscar Wilde that she uses at the start of the book -- "Ordinary riches can be stolen: real riches cannot" -- are perhaps the best summary of the basic message of this book. I think most readers will come away from this book feeling uplifted and satisfied.
About The Author
This was Patricia Wood's first novel. She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii, focusing on education, disability, and diversity. Her work inspired this novel -- as well as events in her life, including her father winning the Washington State Lottery. She lives with her husband on board a sailboat moored in Hawaii. (taken from the author's bio)
I was interested to read that the author's father had won the Washington State Lottery. This helped me to be more accepting of some of the details that happen when Perry wins the lottery, as I imagine many of them were taken from her father's experiences. Also, it makes sense that she lives on a sailboat as Perry works in a marine supply store and Keith lives on a sailboat. I always enjoy seeing the connections between an author's real life and their fiction. In addition, her son lives in Everett, Washington, which is the setting for the book.
Such a delightful novel! I suspect that many of us could learn a lot from Perry L. Crandall and his Gram.
Perry's world is an interesting blend of keen observation, acquired learning and intuitive feeling. He may not always know why something is happening but he is able to make a form of sense of it quicker than many others can. Perry, or Per to his best friends, is able to work out what is right for him even if some of his logic is foreign to others.
I enjoyed this novel: I like where it finished and the neat sense of hope for the future, despite some sad aspects to the journey.
Sentimental? Sure it is. That's what makes this novel come alive. Ms Wood has delivered an unlikely but likeable hero, some well-developed secondary characters and some despicable villains.
Perry may be an auditor, but he is also a contributor.
on August 2, 2007
Lottery is the first account I've read that talks in a realistic manner about what it's like to be "slow." I'm Aspergian, and in many ways I am the opposite of slow, and yet the problems I face in my own life bear many similarities to what I read in Lottery.
I think Pat drew extensively on her own real life experiences - her dad winning the lattery for real, a slow brother in law, and veterans in the family. That resulted in a very real feel to all the people.
It's basically a happy tale, though parts were actually very troubling to me, because I was teased in the same manner she describes in the book. Consequently, the parts that were troubling and hard for me to read might seem funny to a person who had a different upbringing. I had the same response to my brother's book about our childhood, Running With Scissors.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the human condition, and I also recommend it to people who work with the developmentally challenged, and their families.
Finally, I would say the book is written with sensitivity and compassion, and it does not contain gratuitous sex or violence. There's nothing in it to scare you away.
When you read Lottery, you'll feel as if you've won the literary Lottery! You'll want to hole up in a comfy room without any interruptions so you can fully immerse yourself in each word, every phrase. It's the type of book where you tear through the pages, not getting through them fast enough but then you suddenly realize, "Wait! I don't want this to end!" so you try to draw out the experience. You fall in love with Perry L. Crandall. You'll remember his name. You fall in love with his life, and the people most important to him.
Perry is real. He could be your neighbor, a friend, an employee at the Dollar Tree. Your brother. A cousin. Your "cousin-brother" (you'll get that joke after you read the book). He walks down the street. Makes you laugh. Opens a door for you. Offers you a mint. Or a Tums, depending on the look on your face.
He is sincere. He is funny. He is ambitious. He is considerate, always putting others' needs before his.
He is not retarded.
Perry doesn't channel-surf; he "channel-hikes" through the TV stations. His Gram taught him to study words from the dictionary every day. He listens. He bounces when he's happy. He discovers. He learns. He is smarter than any ten people you could put into one room together - his wisdom on life and love and happiness far surpasses the wisdom of anyone I've yet to meet.
And there are the unlikely heroes in Patricia Wood's sure-to-be-a-best-seller, characters who shine like diamonds in the rough. From witty Gram who tells Perry to "quit bellyaching!" to sea-faring, farting and beer-guzzling Keith, to Cherry, the pierced and tattooed Handy Mart gal Perry befriends. Even in his family members, each character lives vibrantly and realistically on the pages and the reader feels all of their inner motivations, whether good or bad. And there is a lot of both in Lottery.
In Lottery you will find love in the most unexpected places, family when you think there was none. It is full of riches, and the message you get when you read and fall in love with Lottery has nothing to do with luck or money. Yet you come away richer after meeting Perry L. Crandall, a name you will not forget.
on July 27, 2008
Perry L. Crandall has an IQ of 76. He is not retarded. In his own words, "You have to have an IQ number less than 75 to be retarded." But, Perry is a slow learner. He lives with his Gram, who had provided him with excellent coping skills. Perry works at Holsted's Marine Supply, and spends time with his friend Keith. All in all, it is a good life.
Then Gram dies. Unsure what to do, Perry continues to follow his regular routine - including buying lottery tickets. He hits the jackpot, winning twelve million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.
This is where the trouble starts. His brothers, who sold his home out from under him when Gram died, attempt to have him sign over his money. His mother, who has little to do with him, calls requesting money. Total strangers write letters addressed to "Lottery Winner" in an effort to score a few bucks.
In the end, Perry manages to live his life on his own terms. His decisions may not make sense to the rest of us, but for Perry L. Crandall they make all the sense in the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Perry. As a special education teacher, his actions and behaviors ring true. From his obsession with the dictionary to his insistence that he is "not retarded," Perry is a believable and intriguing personality.
The characters that surround Perry are all too real in their selfishness. Who hasn't heard stories of `relatives' coming out of the woodwork when a lottery winner's name is announced? Although these characters get their `just desserts' in the end, I waited throughout the story for someone to finally stand up to them.
I was slightly disappointed in the ending. While satisfying, it seemed too neat and well-packaged. I would have liked a little more detail when dealing with the brothers' downfall.
All things considered, I found this to be a very enjoyable novel. I recommend it whole-heartedly.
on August 1, 2007
I feel very privileged to have been able to read and review a copy of LOTTERY. Patricia Wood's debut novel is one of those all-too-rare stories that pulls you in, shows you a different view than you are accustomed to seeing, and really makes you care. The characters are so well-crafted you feel as though you could reach out and touch them, even if there are a few you would not touch with a ten-foot pole (you'll know them when you see them).
Wood's writing is fluid and pure, very easy to read and extremely engaging. This simple, elegant narrative kept me pretty much glued to the pages the entire time. For anyone out there who may be wondering how to write effectively, this is how it's done. In my opinion there are more than a few older, more established writers who would benefit from a few minutes of reading LOTTERY.
I could literally type for an hour or more on this book, but I'm going to exercise common sense and keep this simple. If I can offer any advice at all to the book-buying public for 2007 it would be this: Buy LOTTERY. Read it. When you've read it and loved it, don't thank me for recommending it. Thank Patricia Wood for writing it.
Yes, folks. It's THAT good.
on January 13, 2008
You all know that feeling, right? The feeling you get when that little voice whispers ever so quietly, "Oh my, this is going to be a wonderful book." You know it before you even finish the first chapter. You know it as you find yourself thinking of the characters throughout your busy day. You know it when you start composing a fan letter in your head to the author and decide (even before you're halfway through the book!) you simply must to buy several copies for Christmas gifts. You know it when you ignore all other responsibilities and spend the day (and much of the night) curled up on the couch, reading non-stop for hours. Then you stop. You put the book aside with 50 pages still unread. You want to savor those final chapters. You don't want to leave the characters you've come to love. Finally, you resume reading, allowing no interruptions to break the spell. And then you're finished. And you feel sad and lost, knowing that even though you'll read it again, you'll never again experience that magic as you just did for the first time. And yet, you're feeling excited, eager to return to work so you can begin hand selling it to all your favorite customers (alright, maybe that only happens to some of us); eager to sit down and write a review so other readers can share in the experience. Patricia Wood's Lottery is one of those rare books.
Wood's debut novel shows us that happiness can be -- and perhaps must be -- found in the smallest of pleasures. All anyone really needs is a handful of loyal friends, a job that makes you happy, and love. Every week, Perry L. Crandall (the L is for Lucky, according to his Gram) buys five Lotto tickets at the Marina Handy Mart. He and Gram enjoy talking about what they'd do if they ever won the lottery. To others, their dreams may not seem like much, yet they lead happy (but simple) lives and don't need much in the way of fancy cars, jewelry or frivolities. Well, as luck would have it, Perry wins the Washington State Lottery. Oh, boy, does he win! Twelve million dollars! Life as he knows it suddenly becomes much more complicated. Yet, Perry can take care of himself. After all, he's thirty-two years old. He's not stupid and he's certainly not retarded. He's quick to correct anyone who claims he is, pointing out that one has to have an IQ of less than 75 to be retarded and his IQ is 76. Definitely not retarded. Gram says he's just slow.
It wasn't simply the locale and boat life that drew me into the narrative. Newcomer though she is, Wood writes likes a seasoned author. The pacing is flawlessly even. The dialogue rings true. I loved the humor, as well as the tender moments.
Perry joins my list of favorite characters, keeping company with Owen (A Prayer for Owen Meany), Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird), Swede (Peace Like a River), and Leisel and Rudy (The Book Thief). I loved his general outlook on life. He may lead a simple life, but it's rich, full of purpose and meaning. I loved his naiveté and untarnished view of the world. In his Forrest Gump-like manner, he tells it like it is with pure, unadulterated honesty. I believe there's a lot to learn from this, as well as from the homespun wisdom bestowed upon him by his Gram.
on January 25, 2009
I loved this book. It tells the story of a mentally challenged man who wins the lottery, loses his grandma, finds love and friendship, has money-grubbing family creep out of the woodwork, and grows in unexpected ways (not necessarily in that order). I was pretty skeptical about the premise, starting out, but the story sucked me in. The book is funny and true and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's a perfect book club read; everyone in our group responded to it differently. Many of us had different interpretations of what happened or why the author told the story as she did. One of the greatest things in this book is that the characters are accessible. Even greater is that, sometimes, the author is, too. Never before has an author attended our book club to talk about a book, but Patricia Wood did. She is articulate, funny, interesting and a real pleasure to spend time with, discussing a great read. Buy this book!