A Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a wonderful mix of what I'd like to describe as "country noir," cosmic horror with a bit of bizzaro-weird, and the supernatural. But here's the thing: this novel isn't just a riff on "be careful what you wish for." That's just the surface vehicle for some deeper stuff, as far as I'm concerned. It's really a pretty disturbing/sobering/gut-wrenching examination of an addict in recovery, trying desperately to resist that all-consuming desire (one which never goes away, no matter how long in recovery an addict is) to start feeding that addiction once more. Anyone who's battled an addiction of ANY kind will immediately feel sympathetic with Joey's plight as he tries to be better than the only life he's come to know.
Also, as a guy who grew up in the country and had all sorts of friends from all sorts of social classes; Joey, Ava, and Kenny are remarkably true to life. They want something better, but life doesn't offer Hallmark, gift-wrapped chances to succeed. And here's what I really loved about this novel: it could've very easily gone where so many noirish stories do - into a hopeless pit of despair. It doesn't. The resolution is gentle and hopeful, but not forced.
Also? I found the humor pitch-perfect, with just the right amount of weird. And I like the fact that Ava and Joey (spoiler alert) aren't immediately tossed together as love interests. That, and Joey's ex-girlfriend Angie is the WORST PERSON EVER. But she's not merely a toxic character. She not only represents EVERYTHING Joey wants to get out of his life, but she also represents addiction itself - how every time you think you've got a one-up on it, it side-steps your attacks - "because addicts are resourceful."
It doesn't hurt that the story moves at a brisk pace. A sobering, powerful, and fun-as hell read.
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