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Go with Me: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, February 17, 2009
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I don't think I can add much to the ongoing praise, other than to say that I wholeheartedly agree. This is one exceptionally fine backwoods thriller--a work with an abundance of humor and a lyrical sense of place that takes your breath away! If you want to examine a novel in which there appears to be absolutely no extraneous words, action, or character, this is the one. The pacing and dialogue are near-perfect, and the characters are so real they easily make your own world seem artificial by comparison. To open this book is to fall right in and become part of another world.
Possibly the only unique comment I can add is to help explain the purpose of one of the minor characters, a man named Conrad. He appears as just one of a handful of men who form the "Greek chorus" out at Wizzer's place. But at the end, Conrad jumps out at you inexplicably when he gets his own unique chapter--a chapter that is quiet unlike much that has come before. At first this seemed odd, especially in a novel where there are no unnecessary words. The careful reader has to ask himself: Why give Conrad his own chapter? What's the author trying to say with this short diversion?
All it took to find the answer was to go back and reread all of Conrad's dialogue. In a book that is only 160 pages long, that's actually easy. So, if you want to do that yourself, be my guest. If you don't, read on. Nothing I say gives away the plot; it only sheds light on one of the underlying thematic messages.
Conrad plays the role of the outsider. He plays our part, for we are outsiders, too. Whenever the guys at Wizzer's get to talking, Conrad is always the one who's a little bit confused. He's the one asking the questions. If the book didn't have Conrad, there wouldn't be so much explaining going on and we, the reader, wouldn't know essential back-story.
Conrad is not a native Vermont backwoodsman. He didn't spend his life living around the other men in the story. Conrad is married to Betsy, Wizzer's younger sister by more than half a generation. His wife says that their house used to be the town's schoolhouse. Conrad's amazed to learn how everything around the town used to be something else. Everything's seemed to have changed but Wizzer's--his place is almost exactly as it's been for generations.
The men get to talking about what might someday become of Wizzer's place--the one place that hasn't changed. They wisecrack that they could turn it into a museum, pick it up and drop it down in the middle of Sturbridge Village, along with the whole lot of them. They could charge admission and "let the tourists look at us." It is Conrad who breaks their humor with a comment that only an outsider could make: "This is not Disneyland business, you know. This is no stage set. This is the real thing."
And, yes, by now we know: it is the real thing.
In Conrad's chapter, "The Ground," we find Betsy, his wife, watching television news. She's watching what's supposed to be the real thing--the news--but by comparison to all that's come before, the reader finds it surrealistic, distorted, otherworldly.
The chapter closes with Conrad explaining to his wife a strange feeling he's having: "that Wizzer and the rest of them are all sitting inside a spaceship. A rocket ship. They're in there, and the ship is traveling. It's moving. It's going so fast. It's going at light speed, you know? And so, the men who are on it don't get old, do they? That's what Einstein said. Isn't it? They don't change. Time doesn't pass for them. Time stretches. It stretches, or it shrinks. Or something. They're out of time. You know?"
It is through Conrad that Freeman shares with us his loving lament for a culture and people on the brink of extinction. Even if Conrad doesn't, we know that the world is changing. The culture of the Vermont backwoodsman--like all other cultures worldwide that are rooted tenaciously in endangered ecosystems or outmoded economic systems--are doomed. And the questions left unasked: Are we better off? Are we leaving the better, more real world behind?
I think this would make a great Tarantino movie, too. I've already done the work and picked his cast...Billy Bob Thornton as Whizzer, Tommy Lee Jones as Lester, Juliette Lewis as Lillian, Woody Harrelson as Blackway. Haven't figured out who could be "Nate the Great" yet, though. Shaquille O'Neal...his size and personality would fit, but can he act and be taken seriously??? Tarantino, you owe me one...I've done all the work.
Also, as noted by others, the typography can be annoying with improper text kerning and page justification, leaving one to sometimes having to "re-read" a passage and put the words back together.
Summary, no spoilers.
This is the story of a young woman, who refuses to back down and leave after the town bully torments her, and runs off her boyfriend. She seeks the help of the sheriff, who directs her to a colorful group of locals from this small Vermont town. They send her off with two of their own - a wily old man, and a big strapping young guy who works with him.
The action alternates between the girl and the 2 men seeking out the villain, and the small group that had sent them off. The latter group serves as the Greek chorus, and their dialogue is funny, profound, and clever. It's a neat trick.
I highly recommend this novel. It's short, but there's not a wasted word. It feels like a much bigger book. It was very suspenseful, and I was tense and nervous as I got near the end. When I turned the last page I felt satisfied.