By Bonnie Nadzam
(Other Press, Paperback, 9781590514375, September 2011, 288pp.)
The Short of It:
Stunning and dangerous with sharp, rusted edges.
The Rest Of It:
David Lamb is no stranger to hardships. His marriage failed miserably and he’s just buried his father. While taking a moment after the funeral to gather his thoughts, eleven-year-old Tommie stumbles into his path. She’s all limbs and freckles, yet there’s something about the girl that Lamb finds inviting. He decides to take her on a trip. To show her all the things that I girl her age should experience at least once.
And there was nothing wrong with all that, was there? With a guy like him, buying a kid like her a nice lunch, spoiling her a little? It was good for her. It was just a little tonic for his poisonous heart.
Although it might sound like a re-telling of Lolita, it is far from that. Lamb is a delicately written novel that explores appropriateness and friendship in a way that at times has you questioning Lamb’s true intentions. Tommie is hitting that awkward tween stage where every question is answered with a shrug. She’s seemingly floating along without direction, so when Lamb offers her a trip to his cabin, a place where she can experience everything a young girl her age should, it doesn’t take long for her to decide that it’s what she wants to do. In Lamb’s eyes, he’s giving her the guidance and attention she so desperately needs. In her eyes, she’s getting out of her Godforsaken town to see the world.
When they begin their trip, it’s impossible to know what his intentions are. Early into the novel, I felt sure that he was having some sort of a nervous breakdown and although the decision to take the trip was not a wise one, I could see his logic and his reasons for wanting to take it. But as the trip progresses, and as they get to know one another, insecurities and all, things take a turn and that is where I began to question if Tommie was going to make it out of this okay. These moments of doubt were excruciating to read. I literally had internal conversations with myself over what was going on. What disturbed me more, is that there were times where I found myself relating to Lamb. Making excuses for him, if you will. Somehow I wanted this trip to be okay and for them both to be better for having taken it.
What makes this novel so complex is that Lamb is good for her, as she is good for him. But what makes this a dangerous, edgy tale is the fact that this fifty-something has taken an eleven-year-old girl across the country and against his better judgement, has fallen in love with her. All of a sudden, his care of her becomes a slightly dark, disturbing affair that had me sitting uneasily on the edge of my seat. When you find your soulmate, does age matter? I got mad at myself for even asking such a question but that is what Nadzam does. She works her magic and makes you question right and wrong.
I can’t go into anymore detail than that, because you must read it to get the full effect, but when a book like this has you cheering for the old guy, you stop and take notice. Lamb is wonderfully complex and rich. It’s everything that I look for in a book.
Content Note: If you shun books that center around child molestation, do not let that keep you from reading this book. This book (in my opinion) does not fall into that category and is not graphic in any way.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Net Galley.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.