Sher (short for Sherwood or Sherman, I forget) Foxworth grows up in the deep South in Larkspur, Mississippi. His grandfather has money, like mansion-size money, and his father was a successful plastic surgeon for a number of years. The first half of the book meanders through Sher’s early years and his family, his constant lack of attention in school, and his relationship with his grandfather. We know that Sher’s parents are out of the picture, but it’s not until much later in the story that we find out why.
I know I might be in the minority with this book, since it won an award or two, but I felt that it needed some work in several areas. First, it is very repetitive in some areas and this made the book longer than it needed to be (and potentially boring). As an example of the repetitiveness, I will point to a scene where Sher and his girlfriend get pulled over for supposed reckless driving. It takes ~20 minutes to get through this scene where Sher goes over again and again, verbally with the cop and in his own head, all the reasons he shouldn’t be ticketed. There are several scenes where this happens.
About half of the book is set up for all the good stuff you read in about in the book description posted on Goodreads, etc. If you read that blurb, then you know that eventually Sher joins a fire department. But this doesn’t even happen until 3/4 of the way through the novel. So the arson mystery is lightly touched on here and there but not really investigated until near the end of the book.
There were some discrepancies, places where a characters words or actions contradicted what they had said or did prior. I don’t know if this was something missed during the final drafts or left in and the explanation for the discrepancies were not made clear. For example, one of Dr. Foxworth’s plastic surgery patients came in for some fat removal and boob job. He also decides to give her a butt lift. As such, he has to draw the correct incision marks on her rump before she goes in to surgery. She is awake, aware, and not drugged when he does this. There was a whole discussion among all the characters involved. Later on, after surgery, the patient claims she didn’t know she was getting a butt lift. So, discrepancy? Or did the author plan to add in a bit about how the sedatives gave her a little memory loss but then forgot to do so?
Since the fire department stuff and arson mystery are part of the book’s description, I feel I can talk about them (even though some might feel they are spoilers since that all happens near the end of the book). Sher does a stupid thing at one point, running into a burning building without having called 911 or alerted a neighbor, etc. He has no equipment and no training at this point. Afterwards, Sher is regarded as a hero and invited to join a fire department. He eventually does so and goes off to firefigther academy, which takes up like 3 sentences. Sigh…..This could have been one of the most interesting parts of the book and instead is 3 sentences. Also, his fellow firefighters don’t beat the habit of running into burning buildings without backup out of him, which is what would happen in real life. Instead, he is praised by the fire department. So, I found that whole part (a crucial part to the plot) unbelievable.
OK, I just gave you 4 paragraphs of stuff I didn’t like. I can tell you I did like Sher’s complicated relationship with his grandfather. His life started off privileged and happy, with parents and a grandfather. But when his father’s surgery practice takes a decline, they have to live in the poolhouse at the grandfather’s estate. Depression and failure affects all, even the privileged. Still, I didn’t feel too bad for the Foxworth’s at that point. Later, when Sher’s parents are no longer in the scene, his bond with his grandfather grows, even as he struggles with college. I found these scenes concerning Sher’s family to be some of the best written in the book.
The ending was a surprise, but it also felt rushed. It came so quickly that I actually relistened to a few minutes of it to see if I had missed something. While the twist was welcome, making sense as it did, and giving me a bit of a surprise, I felt there could have been a little more to the wrap up to explain things.
The Narration: Wolinsky’s narration of males in this tale were good, each one being distinct. He carried out a believable Southern accent for the characters that required one. However, nearly all of his female characters sounded like little kids, and many of them were not discernible from each other. I have listened to other books narrated by Wolinsky and they are well narrated. Perhaps this was a book he narrated earlier in his career.