Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam

I was disappointed by this novel.  Prior to reading to this book I came across positive reviews.  I was therefore really looking forward to reading it; unfortunately, the book did not live up to its billing.

The story focuses on a middle-aged man named David Lamb who is dealing with a divorce and his father's death.  During this difficult time, he befriends an 11-year-old girl named Tommie.  After concluding that he can save her from an empty life, they take a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies without Tommie's family knowing.

The story tackles various issues, including whether an adult and child can treat each other as equal friends.  On paper this is an intriguing concept. The fact that author Bonnie Nadzan can write is also encouraging.  For instance, consider this passage:
Let's say there were none of those truss towers of galvanized steel lining the highway this next day. No telephone poles. No wires. Say that Lamb's truck and the highway were the only relics of the actual world. The road was overcome with native grasses and aromatic flowers, with wild onion and pussytoes. Soft gaping mouths of beardtongue, and mountain lover, and buckbush and drowsy purpose heads of virgin's bower. Say it was like this that they crossed the Midwestern line beyond which the sky spreads itself open -- suddenly boundless, suddenly an awful blue.
At its best this novel contains beautiful prose.  Unfortunately, Nadzam comes across as an author who has a great idea for a book and can't wait to implement her plot, even if it means sacrificing the story's pace,  tone and settings.  This eagerness also results in wooden characters and scenes that serve as mere plot robots.  Tommie could have been an interesting character, but instead she comes across as an afterthought, whose only purpose is to raise the question, "can an adult and child be friends?"  Ditto for David Lamb.

My overall impression of this novel is that the author sacrificed many elements of the book for the sake of a plot line. This is too bad, because this story is a great idea that would have been excellent if accompanied by interesting characters.

2 out of 5 stars