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Stranger Will Paperback – January 22, 2011
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
As someone who teaches, edits and reads for a living, I'm always looking for the scene, the character, the story I haven't read a thousand times over and over. Something with the spark of originality and the courage to be different. When I see that something new, it's always a joy. And, thanks to Caleb Ross and his Stranger Will, I had those moments of joy repeatedly throughout the book. This is an original--unlike anything you've ever read before.
Stranger Will is a nightmare landscape littered with the carcasses of fatherhood and various social mores. This is one paranoid, challenging, beautiful, and pitch-dark book. I'm a little afraid of this Ross guy now; but I'll also read anything he writes.
Just like a Palahniuk novel, Stranger Will reads volatile: it could go any way. Caleb J. Ross leads you with a wry smile into dark places, but by the time you realize it's too late. You will follow him anywhere.
In his first full length novel, Kansas City native Caleb J. Ross waxes prosaic the age old case of jitters that comes with impending fatherhood…As the novel continues, the plot gets increasingly dark and starkly less comedy and Ross’s writing all the more pointed. It reads like a nightmare you wake up from in the middle of the night and spend the next day wondering how much of it was real. The twists are shocking and terrifying, but somehow founded in reason and not entirely unbelievable…Charles Bukowski dedicated the thinly fictionalized account of his young life, Ham on Rye, with the words “for all the fathers” as the simultaneous threat, fear, blame and praise a delinquent child squares on his father. Such a dedication would be fitting for Caleb J. Ross’s Stranger Will. --Stephen Krauska --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Caleb J. Ross has a BA in English Literature and creative writing from Emporia State University. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared widely, both online and in print. He is the author of five books of fiction and has served as an editor at Outsider Writers Collective, as moderator of the writing podcast The Velvet Podcast, and is the creator of The World’s First Author Video Blog series. He lives in the USA. Visit his official page at www.calebjross.com. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Let's get the boring, nitpicky stuff out of the way -- as usual. Typos, which seemed to get worse as the book went along. Everything from misspellings to what seem to be misused words. Why?? I expect this in a goodreads win -- because they're most likely sending out proofs rather than finished editions -- but this wasn't a win, I bought this on Amazon, so I expect the quality to compare to any other book I'd pick up in a store. This kind of sloppiness just doesn't make me a fan.
Now that's out of the way . . .
This is a very interesting story. William and Julie are expecting their first child -- a child William is determined not to have. He works with heavy duty chemicals as a "human remains removal specialist", and fears the damage the chemicals may have already done to the unborn baby. In his endeavor to be rid of the child, he is helped by the mysterious Mrs. Rose.
This idea was so compelling to me that I had Amazon overnight a copy when I couldn't find it locally -- something I almost never do. I'm just too cheap to pay for that kind of postage, but I just had to read it as soon as possible.
Was it worth it?
I don't know. I found the characters and their lives grotesque and unlikable. Even Julie, who -- as a mom -- I felt I should have been most sympathetic to. They're all so mired in these ridiculously pointless lives, it's difficult to empathize with them. On the other hand, has any parent escaped having an instant (or more) of doubt and fear when faced with the reality of having children? It's such a huge responsibility, one I know I felt vastly unprepared for. So it wasn't like I couldn't understand William's reluctance to accept this new role.
I also found William's solution to his "problem" truly horrific -- even thinking about it now makes me feel upset, even nauseated.
I think I was looking for a different story, one in which William and Julie have their doubts -- about parenthood and about each other -- but work their way through the problems to reach a new point in their lives. This is NOT that story.
I didn't really understand what Mrs. Rose was striving to attain, or why so many people were willing to help her. I didn't understand William's passivity throughout the story. In the end, I did sympathize just a bit with Julie, but not enough that I ended up liking her.
Having said all that, though, I can't give this book only 1 star. I didn't like it, but that doesn't make it a bad book -- I think my reaction to it is indicative of how it challenged my values and my beliefs. The ideas presented would probably rate 4 stars -- they really are that intriguing.
So I guess I'll split the difference and give it 3 stars, subject to change as I ponder this book in the coming weeks.
I am still going "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot what did I just finish reading? WAIT not reading EXPERIENCING?!" Now, I am going to do something different, I am going to rate it first...
Five hundred million Bottles of Awesomesauce - there is nothing more, not even bacon at this point!!
If language offends you(I cleaned it up for you Amazon) ... I really wanted to apologize ahead of time but I can't! I tried to write this straight, but I can't! I am still dealing with dropped jaw syndrome! So...*shrugging shoulders* this book would probably not be something you could handle if the occasional F*** bothered you anyway. It takes balls to take this book on! And I know a lot of you have them, so strap them on ladies and hitch them up, gentlemen and take it on, you will NOT be disappointed. Do not eat before you read, hug your children and be happy with your decision to breed and enter a world that extrapolates to the extreme 'WHAT IF" and, what the F***! and most importantly? Be careful what you wish for, sometimes someone really can grant your wishes, even if you didn't mean it!
Ever read one of those books that sticks to you brain pan like duct tape on a shaved cats butt.. oh wait that may not mean something to all of you ummm OK that sticks like extra strength duct tape, let's leave it at that! It is the foundation for a myriad of messed up bad dreams and unsettled sleep for the last week. I am deeply and quite deliciously disturbed by this. It has darkness in it, it oozes and gushes epically awesome frightening darkness. All manner of messed up people live in this town where our protagonist Will now lives. And he is in charge of cleaning up behind their worthless lives.
He has a f-ed up but necessary job, he is a human remains removal expert. Car accidents, decomposing bodies stuck to their E-Z chairs... its.. fragrant and ripe with festive insanity. But the bodies are not there just what is left behind. We all wonder what kind of mark we will make in this world and I do not think any of you imagine it will be the puddle of decomp jelly where your fat butt fell asleep watching Jeopardy and stuffing Ho-hos in your gullet. Or spread across the scene that can be hosed away on the interstate. Give up your dreams and forget about clean underwear because it won't matter at this point.
NOTHING I have read can compare to this except maybe the Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille . Georges may have a 21th century brainchild in Caleb J. Ross and Georges is called the "metaphysician of evil," specializing in blasphemy, profanation, and horror."
Throughout all of this Will is dealing with a pregnant fiance whom he is trying to convince to be rid of the child of before term or if at term to give up. It is full deep imbibing metaphors to immerse your psyche in. It has dark, cruel comedy, he is pretty much a top-notch prick to his fiance and shes obsessed with the belief everything he does and comes in contact with is a health risk to the unborn child. The cleaning supplies he uses coats his clothes, the cigarettes he chain smokes, now outside for her. Well for him, because he does not want to deal with her complaining. I haven't read a book like this, ever!
Yet, just when I hate this guy, just when I start climbing on my fancy feminist F***-off wagon? He does something showing heart. He feels bad.. he doesn't talk about what he has to do or what his cleanup will be. He convinces himself it is because he doesn't want to deal with her wrath but there is a part of him that is soft enough to remember why they are together. At least that is my warm fuzzy place I have to think about so when he lights a bird on fire and I am right back on the feminist F***-off wagon I do not pull both guns.
My mouth is still hanging open when I think back on what I read. There is one scene that will forever be burnt into my soul, wait a lot more than one..but the first really horrific scene is a house which has a perfectly maintained lawn in a neighborhood of perfectly maintained lawns and houses, but this house? It is falling to pieces like a forgotten and neglected elderly family member. There was so many symbols seeping from pipes and filling up the basement. Melville would have had a field day with the symbolic iconography in just the kitchen alone. I.. I... I want to tell you so much but I am afraid if I do you would miss out on the shock, which like my swear words is necessary Oh Em Gee try it for yourself, seriously! *mouth hangs open, head shakes, looks at the cat and whispers..." Seriously Asrielle, maybe I better take the squirrel in residence some folks may come after me but then again some folks may be sending me pounds and pounds of bacon!"
Now, I have to leave you here. I probably could go on another 1ooo words because I have not even gone back over in my brain what happens a bit before you hit the halfway mark, or the playing catch with one of the short-bus kids and a decomposing racoon. (do not even go there, there is no way I can be politically correct while trying to explain this. Plus, the short-bus kid? He captures the heart of Will along with me!) Just trust me. Oh and I did not mention the twisted idea of a fairy godmother who leads all this merry mayhem. I would choose her as a fairy godmother mind you she is more like Satan's spawn of a godmother!
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