Thursday 12 June 2008

Book Review: Mark Gimenez – The Perk.

This book was loaned to me by a work colleague, who kept asking if I’d read it. I was in the middle of half-a-dozen good books, so this didn’t appeal to me at all. The name, the cover, it all reminded me of a clichéd detective story and I really couldn’t be bothered. I picked it up to get it over with and give it back to her and…I was hooked. I could not put this book down. I kept missing my stop on the way to work and I kept getting up after everyone had fallen asleep to start reading it again. I finally finished it at 1.30am with a feeling of satisfaction.

The book centres on Beck a hotshot corporate lawyer who moves with his children from Chicago to a small town in Texas after the death of his wife. The book is superficially a detective novel and description of Beck’s return and settlement to the town he left as a teenager vowing never to return to. On a deeper level it is a political novel about the machinations of small town life.

I’ve read novels before that show the perfect small town, only then to start throwing up all of the nasty secrets, intrigues and deceptions that sit under the surface. (Stephen King often does this well). But this was different. Although the town seems like the perfect down-home, slice-of-apple-pie, 4th-of-July-parade town, right from the outset Jimenez describes the support Bush stickers, teenage girls dressed as if they’re at "a hookers convention", the contempt for outsiders and the lack of coloured faces.

What I felt this book was really about was the prejudices and dreams of Middle America, and the costs of these. This book most reminded me of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but brought bang up-to-date with references to Katrina kids, ICE raids on illegal immigrants and modern teenage life.

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