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"Depth of Lies" by E. C. Diskin
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I'm glad I bought it and I enjoyed it, but my expectations at the beginning of the book were slightly dashed by the time I got to the end. The book is hard to put down, like others have said. The narrator is self-deprecating and lacks confidence. Yet he is very likable. As Sheldon grew in confidence, though, he became less pleasant to read about. I felt like the book could have gone in a number of different ways. For example, Sheldon seems so lacking in confidence sexually that I wasn't sure which way his sexual identity was going to go. Since the character of Sam shows an interest in Sheldon, I wasn't sure if a relationship was going to develop between them.
But the plot takes a different turn, becoming a black comedy about Sheldon's dysfunctional working environment, a hellish grocery store. I felt the novel was overlong, and the drunken escapades toward the end were getting rather tiresome. What bugged me the most was that I couldn't see any of the characters. Physical descriptions were almost totally lacking, and this was a big flaw in the novel. I don't know whether it's that the main character doesn't really "see" anybody, but to not be able to visualize important characters like Cassandra, Gilbert, or Sam, just took away a lot of the impact of the book. Not to mention the Spend Easy managers like Frank or Ralph...they are just not fleshed out enough for their characters to be effective. And the character of Theresa was the most disappointing of all. She could have been quite poignant, but Bartlett barely sketches her in. Yet we're supposed to view her as a significant love interest.
Although Sheldon shows moments of growth toward the end, I liked the first half of the book far better than the second. However, this was quite an original novel, and Bartlett has an interesting voice. There could be quite a dark and perverse third novel in him! I hope so.
Still the story was interesting, but the ending was a little too far fetched for my tastes.
My initial start into this book was from the aspect that the main character was dealing with depression and suicide, given the synopsis that I had read. So, we have Sheldon, a would be writer who is about to commit suicide and is "saved" by a neighbor of his who is also a pot dealer. After his interment at a mental hospital he gains a job at a local grocery store stocking shelves and deals with despicable co-workers and unsympathetic women. With how much the book drones through the daily monotony of working at said grocery store it does seem to speak to depression at a certain level. Namely how when a person suffers from the illness and has to go through daily life with the rest of society (or rather worker bees) they essentially become their own wind-up toy: place the key in, wind up the spring and go about the day until they run down.
And so thanks to the person who saves him, Sheldon starts smoking pot which leads to quite a lot of bad decisions and horrible consequences. At a certain level I was rather hoping for certain insights that would be on par, or at least in the same league, as Chuck Palahniuk. That the author would make some clever observations about living with the illness and still trying to continue on in a society that expects everyone to keep working, be productive and useful. Sadly, no such observations were made by the character.
In addition to this, a big problem that I saw with it was how difficult it was to keep the characters straight. All that was given as far as the characters themselves are what they say and what their names were. We aren't given very much in the way of physical description, demeanor or anything like that. That they're essentially names with no faces. I realize that this may be some underhanded observation that the author is making about working in a grocery store or dealing with depression but for us the reader it does help if we have something to differentiate between one person and the next.
In the end when it comes to the issue of depression, the book seems to be less about that and more like a gritty after school special about drugs and peer pressure.
It's because of this that my rating of it is somewhere between "It's okay" and "I don't like it."