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Chattanooga: a novel Paperback – November 17, 2011
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About the Author
Chet Raymo grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is Professor Emeritus of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. He is the author of more than a dozen books on science and nature for a popular audience, and four novels. His novel The Dork of Cork was made into the motion picture Frankie Starlight. He is a winner of the prestigious Lannan Literary Award. Raymo’s weekly column “Science Musings” appeared in the Boston Globe from 1983-2003, and his musings can still be read online at www.sciencemusings.com.
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Top customer reviews
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Using humor in writing can be extremely challenging to do effectively. Often a funny quip or a funny situation sticks out from the flow of the story and makes it seem that the author created the situation for the sake of its humorous content, rather than having the humor as an offshoot of the situation. The Raymos did a superb job with the humor in this tale. I seldom laugh out loud while reading, but Iggy made me laugh more than once.
My only complaint is that I think Buddy was dispatched too quickly. Maybe he should have had a chance to do something more upsetting than making eyes at the nurse. Maybe his injuries should have been ones that didn't require stationary restraints so he could have done something like pinch the nurse's fanny, or some other inappropriate touching, thereby giving Button a more legitimate reason to end the relationship at that point.
I definitely recommend this story, but if strong language bothers a person, this book would be rather upsetting. In my opinion, the language is natural to the characters, because they are the types who don't have extensive vocabularies, so they use shock words, just like many inarticulate real life characters do.
What a fun read!
The good parts:
Characters - They were unique and each had a perspective about the others, written in segments by each character.
Setting - The time was toward the end of WWII and the story was set in a relatively small area of Chattanooga.
Plot - The plot was fair, with some twists and turns related to an escaped German POW, a dysfunctional family who crowded into one house (one of them made bombs for the war), and included remnants of the slavery era and the racial issues of this time.
Parts that didn't appeal to me:
Differing Points of View - I have never been a fan of each character speaking at different times. While it works to help the reader maintain an understanding of each character's feelings, I think a straight, written version would work as well.
Dialogue - Each person who spoke was given his/her own dialect or specific way of speaking. Sometimes that overshadowed the story itself.
Language - Because each character was given his/her own platform and they took turns speaking, what they said reflected on the times. Some of them used very harsh language regarding race. Though I understand this is our history, it was not appealing to me.
Plot - The plot seemed to drag on, and when the book ended, I thought, "Is this it?" Things were left hanging - Bitsy's condition, the relationship between Roger and Button, Buddy's and Wanda's relationship, Tomettta's future -- it just seemed there was little closure.
My favorite part was when Buddy found the canary! I laughed out loud! Great writing and wonderful imagery in this part of the book!
Being the ultimate character driven novel, the book changes point of view with every chapter, rotating among a handful of characters who seamlessly tell the story. And what a wonderful story it is. Nothing grandiose, majestic or even particularly exciting; simply day-to-day life amid a family with more than its share of 'characters'.
I reference that great play, 'You Can't Take it With You' in my title for this review because almost from the opening page I was reminded of Kaufman and Hart's masterpiece. That is not to say that 'Chattanooga' has the same degree of ridiculous humor; no the comparison is based more on the richness of characters who will all remind readers of idiosyncratic members of their own families.
When I was finished reading, I couldn't help but wish that I had been there, living in the house with the Buffon family, during that summer of 1944; and that's the highest praise I can give to any entertainment.