Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lottery, by Patricia Wood

I picked up this book with some apprehension as its story, of a young man with Downs' syndrome who wins 12 million dollars in the lottery, seemed to suggest too much of 'Forrest Gump' and the rather over rated 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time'. Indeed one could draw several parallels with both, especially the former - a simple hero with a tough talking maternal figure , the war-shattered best friend, the beautiful girl with her own secrets who appears way out of the hero's league.

Perry Crandall, the protagonist, lives a simple life with his grandmother and a small group of friends in smalltown USA. He has to put up with a lot of cruelty and ignorance from the people around him, including his own family, despite being independent and employed. When his grandmother dies, Perry at first finds himself cheated and abandoned by his family members and struggles to start afresh. Then he wins the lottery, becomes an overnight celebrity and everything is different. In a world where everyone is suddenly his friend and the people who once scorned or ignored him are now taking notice, Perry has to decide what his priorities are.

Much like "The Curious Incident..", this story is told in the first person in deliberately simple prose, to reflect the world through Perry's eyes. 'I am an auditor", he says. An auditor is a listener.." And that is indeed what Perry does best, as he lets the voice of his Gram guide him through the minefield that his victory threatens to become. He is smart but not shrewd, aware that his family is desperately trying to take the money from him, even as he writes them an endless series of cheques.

The plot follows a very conventional trajectory, with strong hints of Gump throughout (though Perry, thankfully, does not become an unwitting part of various landmark events in American history). He falls in love, suffers heartbreak, and finds it again. Some scenes felt contrived - the slapstick routine where Perry finds himself alone with Keith and a snarly dog in his cousin's house, for instance, or the impulsive trip to Hawaii where nothing really happens. At some point, though, I was won over. Much like its slow but sensible protagonist, the plot steadily works towards its predictable but still uplifting end.

It's a moral tale, of good and bad, the power of love over the lure of money, the value of friends and family. Nothing very novel, but told well through its simple, almost monotonous narrative.It's slow at the onset, but rewarding for readers who stay the distance with it. You can't help but cheer for this sweet courageous hero, and his real victories - finding love, friendship and purpose.

1 comment:

  1. Aloha!
    Thank you for your kind words about LOTTERY. I wanted to show a slice of world through the eyes of one who has mental challenges in an authentic way. The literary choices I made hopefully allows people to get inside Perry's head and have empathy for those with cognitive challenges. If my novel is compared to either Forest Gump or Curious Incident I am honored. The more novels that include characters with disabilities hopefully will entice readers to treat others with compassion.
    Thank you again and much Aloha to you,
    Patricia Wood