Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good story, fancy writing

Call it the curse of working in the newspaper business, but I just don’t like fancy writing.
Sure, I like a good description as much as the next person. Alliteration is all the rage. Character building is important and in a novel, the best example I’ve come by is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
But fancy writing ticks me off. I call it flowery and I hate it. If there were ever a way to define what a “mind boggle” is, I’d say it’s what my brain does when I’m reading a compound sentence that stretches into the space of a paragraph without really saying anything worthwhile.
And so, I did not thoroughly enjoy the book “Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles” by Nicholas Trout, author of the New York Times best seller “Tell Me Where it Hurts.”
A couple caveats here: I loved the story. There’s a great little tale hidden among super stretched out sentences with big, flowery words, retrospective thoughts and basically, junk. All those words are junking up the story.
Beyond the writing, I did not like that I did not find the story until I was nearly halfway into the book. I also did not like that I did not find the narrator — yes, the narrator! — until half way through the book.
The first half of the book bounces back and forth between the two main elements of the story — a fat little stray who managed to find a loving home and a nimble little min pin who touched the hearts of many, even past her death.
In those first chapters, it’s not clear who is telling the story. It felt like the voice of God was coming from some mysterious place off in the distance and narrating these dogs’ and peoples’ lives.
Then, suddenly, you’re thrust into an environment that is totally alien to the rest of the book. The narrator begins writing in first person, but you don’t know who the heck he is. And you don’t find out how it all ties together until the end of the chapter.
Lastly, I’ll say there was far too much reflective thought. Not all reflective thought is bad, but keep it to a paragraph here and there or give it its due space at the end of the book. There’s no need for page after page of reflective thought dispersed throughout the book. It just slows things down.
On a positive note, I was able to read the book really quickly because I probably only read half of it. My eyes skimmed over the flowery stuff while I struggled to keep my focus on the words and what they were trying to convey. At first, I made myself reread each sentence until I had digested it. After a while, I realized it wasn’t all that important to digest the flowery stuff and let my eyes skim when they needed to.
One last thing that made me mad: there is no bulldog in this story. There’s a big, adorable bulldog on the cover, but no bulldog in the story. I thought that was misleading.
It is a good story, though. It’s a story about how one little dog impacted many people in her 14 months on this planet, including the veterinarian who carries the burden of being responsible for her death. It shows how the veterinarian, inspired by this dog and her owner, turns that burden into something good. And overall, the book’s message may be summed up by the saying “everything happens for a reason.”
I believe in fate. I believe everything really does happen for a reason, even if the reason is not readily apparent. The book’s message is a good one and the story it tells is a good one too. It’s a shame the writing didn’t make that more accessible.

Purchase the book through by clicking here.

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