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To Do the Deal, a Novel in Stories Paperback – August 15, 2014
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The Amazon Book Review
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Baker is an observant and entertaining writer, even when the subdued plot unfurls without high drama or overt tension. Her clean, direct style refreshingly portrays the tender side of a relationship that could have ended badly. It also effectively underscores the awkward discussions that nearly every family endures. Kirkus Reviews
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Top customer reviews
This finely crafted novel ignores the pundits, policy wonks, and politicians of Washington to depict the lives of real people in the nation's capital. Often these folks are "nickled and dimed" by meager subcontracts and commission sales. Jodie and Ken Bodine are among this invisible group. The novel begins with a deal the day the couple meets in 1991, continues with a deal for each year of the decade, and concludes on the verge of a decision about a big deal.
Jodie works at home editing government publications for a contractor. Ken ignores think tanks, lobbying firms, and nonprofit groups to eek out a living in commission sales. There are no health care nor retirement benefits as he works mostly in Maryland, a "right to be fired" state. The couple's adventures are described with gentle humor and keen observation. They seem like nice people with bratty children, real problems, and true integrity.
To do the deal is not just to make money, but also to honor commitments and to be content with a satisfying life. Cathy Baker has produced the story of real people behind the talking heads of the evening news. Readers will get a great deal by following the story of the Bodine family.
To Do the Deal is the story – actually ten stories – of Kenneth Bodine, a man in search of himself. It starts in 1991, when Ken breaks up with his girlfriend, known only as Watermelon, and meets Jodine, who is about to break up with her boyfriend. After the two successfully break off their unfortunate hookups and end up with each other, what follows is a series of ten stand-alone short stories that take us to the year 2000 – as Ken moves from job to job, eventually ending up in sales, where he shines, despite his absolute lack of people skills.
Each story is a self-contained episode in Ken’s increasingly chaotic life, but each also segues seamlessly into the next. Baker has created the perfect born loser in Ken, the model put upon housewife/mother in Jodi, and a cast of supporting characters that, if you’ve ever experienced the suburbs of Washington, DC, you’ll swear you’ve lived next door to them. The humor in To Do the Deal is understated, tongue-in-cheek, that sneaks up on you, gently grabs your funny bone, and before you know it, has you clutching your sides and blinking back tears. At times you feel sorry for Ken, and at others, you want to give him a solid kick in the rear – all the while, you’re chuckling at the predicaments he manages to get himself into.
There are no surprises in this book, but it is not predictable. It ends in the best possible way, given the state of mind of the main character and the effect he has on everyone with whom he comes into contact. Despite the lack of surprise, it is satisfying because you find yourself saying, ‘but for the grace of God, that’s where I’d be.’ Baker’s use of domestic banter between Ken and Jodi (which, given the last name she acquired at marriage, is what Jodine prefers to be called) is so realistic, you feel like a voyeur reading it. She does a particularly good job in describing the relationship Ken and Jodi have with their children – just ask anyone who has had to raise kids in today’s economy. Between episodes of humor, the author also describes human relationships in a way that is so spot on, you wonder if she wasn’t a psychologist in another life.
If you want a good weekend read, this is a definite ‘must-read.’ Five stars for one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Posted on behalf of an Awesome Indies reviewer who reviewed this book free of charge in return for an honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
I quite enjoyed this little tale about the Bodine family and their struggles.Read more