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All About Lulu: A Novel Paperback – July 21, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Evison's debut—of love and loss, growing up, throwing up and moving on—is a stunner. William Miller Jr. is a scrawny loner whose mother dies of cancer when he is seven years old, leaving him an awkward vegetarian with an ominously macho father and idiot twin brothers in mid-1970s Santa Monica. William's father, Big Bill, remarries a grief counselor named Willow, and Will spends the following decades in love with Louisa (Lulu, as she prefers to be called), his new stepsister. They are close throughout adolescence, but after a summer at cheerleading camp, Lulu returns home distant and hostile, leaving Will to pine for her in solitary desperation. Will finally appears to be on the path to normalcy in the early 1990s when he lucks into a radio talk-show hosting gig, but the stroke of good fortune is short-lived, as he discovers things about Lulu he'd rather not know. Evison provides readers a viciously funny and deeply felt portrayal of a blended family and one man's thwarted longing. (July)
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"All About Lulu is an exhilarating, wholly original and brave novel about obsession, love and becoming. With Will Miller Evison has created a thoroughly modern protagonist steeped in Dickensian complexity, pure yet conflicted, lost yet driven to find truth in the dysfunctional American abyss." -- James P. Othmer, author of The Futurist
"Anyone who has ever experienced obsessive love -- or wanted to experience obsessive love -- will find themselves at home in Jonathan Evison's All About Lulu. The voice is fresh as this morning's rain, the emotions are universal. Read this book and realize you aren't the only one knocked stupid for love." -- Tim Sandlin, author of Western Swing
"Evison's debut novel glows with evocative details and unforgettable scenes...story of sweet complexity, about the people you want to hold on to, and the ones you have to let go." -- Time Out New York
"Evison's debut-of love and loss, growing up, throwing up and moving on-is a stunner....Evison provides readers a viciously funny and deeply felt portrayal of a blended family and one man's thwarted longing." -- Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"Most novels in which a boy must oil up his bodybuilder father for competition would merit our attention, but that detail is just one of many amazements on offer in All About Lulu. Will the Thrill is a great literary charmer, and through his rich voice Jonathan Evison has concocted a funny and painfully honest piece of fiction." -- Sam Lipsyte
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This book is enchanting, a total winner, one of THE BEST of the best. This is a book that shouldn't be missed, what a shame if you don't read this unbelieveably wonderful book.
William Miller wants to stop the world and get off -- his mom has died and his family is devasted. He is the oldest son of Big Bill Miller, who is a body builder, and big brother to twins Doug and Ross. While the family of now just men goes through the throes of grief, despair, and emptiness, they also find it hard to cope with just being four men trying to get through each day and night -- there's nobody to take care of them. Will has it the worst -- he is totally not into body building, is a wimpy/geeky shy type of guy, and is a proclaimed vegetarian. While Will loves his dad and brothers, he feels totally out of place since they are all so into pumping iron and the gym. His dad believes the world revolves around meat, meat, and more meat. However, all of these guys are grieving and their worlds are orbiting in the deep sadness zone.
Enter into their lives Willow and her daughter Lulu. Willow is a grief counselor and old friend of Big Bill's. Finally, Will seems to find a reason to get out of bed each day --Lulu. Will says -- "My life began again the moment I met Louisa Trudeau." He continues -- "All I wanted to do is look at her. She was Mr. Potato Head beautiful. Nothing fit right. But somehow this girl in the yellow socks, with the small nose and the big ears and the gap-toothed smile, achieved a certain harmony, a beauty greater than the sum of its parts." Will is totally smitten. His life begins to have some happiness again since the death of his mom.
Time marches on and things are GOOD for Lulu and Will. They become thick as thieves and are never apart. They are thrilled when Big Bill and Willow decide to tie the knot. Life is good. Then suddenly, something happens, something secret, and their once tight and glorious relationship comes to a quick and definite stop - all Lulu's doing. She becomes distant, rebellious, and rejects every overture Will makes. He can't figure out what he may have done to wreck their friendship and Lulu isn't talking.
Will is one of the greatest characters ever invented. While he is shy, awkward, quiet, and sort of nerdy, he is funny, quick witted, kind, considerate, and very outspoken. He is wise beyond his years. The other characters are perfect -- they too are fun and totally fleshed-out. Each character is unique and different and they all blend together to make this book amazing. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough. Will's younger twin brothers, Doug and Ross, are typical young boys/teens and compliment each other. Even though they are twins, they are totally different but close as only twins can be. Big Bill is a great father, trying hard to make his kids happy and his new marriage work.
Join Will as he grows up, works at a Fatburger chain with Acne Scar Joe, has a neighbor from the Soviet Union named Eugene Gobernecki, continues to be committed to Lulu, the antics and seriousness of life with his brothers, Big Bill competing and growing older, Will meeting his idol and getting into the job arena in many different aspects -- the entire time loving Lulu and bringing forth a certain charm and sarcastic yet realistic look at life in general.
Evison writes with charm, sarcasm, and a razor sharp wit. For instance -- "The doctor was Asian. His name was a verb -- Chew, I think." Or -- "Crossing the Golden Gate into Sausalito I tried harder than ever to see the future. All I saw was a tollbooth." The arguments between the twins are hysterical, priceless, and so teenage typical.
This is one of the best books I have read this year. I highly recommend this to you and your family and friends. Jonathan Evison's latest, WEST OF HERE, is sitting on my book shelf begging to be read.
Treat yourself and read ALL ABOUT LULU. You will be glad you did!
William Miller is the son of "Big Bill" Miller, a competitive body builder, and brother to dimwitted younger twins following in Dad's muscle-bound footsteps. Seven-year old loaner William is physically under-developed and a vegetarian - kind of like Gandhi growing up with Genghis Khan. "Big Bill" is not a bad guy, but likes simple endings and lives by the codes of "no pain, no gain" and "the world is made of meat." But as bad as it is for geeky William, his life is torn apart when his only real friend and confidant - his Mom - dies of cancer. A miserable Will is condemned to even more time waiting around sweaty gyms, trying to do homework while Dad and the Atlas-twins pump iron and strike poses. Then William's world is happily turned upside down when Big Bill remarries, bringing his new wife's young daughter Louisa "Lulu" Trudeau into the family. Immediately Will and Lulu, same age, are inseparable, communicating on a plane and in dimensions far removed from grunting and heaving and body oils and neoprene shorts of the Miller clan. Lulu becomes Will's obsession - the sole theme of the copious volumes of "The Life of Lulu" which Will secretly compiles. The relationship continues and intensifies for years until mysteriously changing forever after Lulu's return from a summer cheerleading camp in Vermont. To Will's unfathomable frustration, Lulu is now distant, withdrawn, and as days and years pass, through high school and boyfriends and trends and fads, Lulu draws further away - inexplicably - as Will's depression deepens with no relief for his Lulu obsession.
Lulu heads off to Seattle for college, and while still estranged, it is abundantly clear that Lulu's feelings for Will run much hotter and deeper than her surface attempts to push him away. Meanwhile, Will begins to develop a semblance of a life, finding a natural talent in radio, and also as a budding entrepreneur as he teams up with two unlikely partners to launch a Venice Beach hot dog stand. But as Will gradually pulls his act together, Lulu seems to be spiraling into a deeper hole, leading to a series of events that left me awestruck, even though in hindsight, all of the clues were deftly planted by the cagey Evison.
"All About Lulu" is an unexpected mystery and an unexpected delight, a superbly well-told tale with approachable and likeable characters, a relentless pace, and uncommon insight into the human spirit and relationships. One of those rare and original novels that will stay with you for a very long time, this is one not be missed. Bravo.