Monday, March 3, 2014

'Til the Well Runs Dry -- Lauren Francis-Sharma

Dear Surly:  Why don't you use STARS in your reviews?  I like STARS!!!  Signed, Figment of Your Imagination Fan 

Dear Fig:  I have stayed away from stars because they can be misleading, but if you want stars you shall have them. I do insist on explaining my system, though.

*****  This is a book that accomplished everything it set out to do. The writing felt effortless. If it is a plot driven narrative the action didn't bog down. If it's character driven, I became emotionally invested in them, whether I liked them or not. A book doesn't have to be deep and impossibly meaningful, and they actually lose a star or two if they are too earnest. All it has to be is exactly what it set out to be, better than most of its ilk (whatever ilk that is), and "true" to itself from start to finish.  I fully acknowledge that sometimes it's even possible that I ***** a **** book because I'm just in a very good mood. 

****  This means that something in the book may have left me wanting for some reason -- and yes, sometimes that's just a ME thing -- but overall, I still want people to read the book. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a **** to someone.  I fully acknowledge that sometimes it's even possible I **** a ***** book because I'm just in a stingy mood.

***  This means that if a customer picks up a book and asks if I have read it, and if so, if I had liked it, I can say yes without having to check the length of my nose. I'm happy to recommend it, but I probably wouldn't pick it up first if I'm just giving suggestions.  I fully acknowledge that sometimes it's even possible that I *** a **** book because it didn't live up to the hype. I would never *** a ***** book for any reason. 

** This means that if a customer brings the book to me intent on buying it I will smile and say, "Cash or credit card?"  

*  This means that if a customer brings the book to me intent on buying it I will say, "You know what? I think we can find you a better book."  Because, YES, I do that sometimes. It's what a responsible bookseller who appreciates their customers will do for them. I don't do this often. People should never feel embarrassed to buy a book, and certainly not because I've made them feel that way. And honestly, this isn't something I do to customers with whom I don't yet have a relationship. I take my job seriously, but I'm not the standard-bearer, and I am not a literary gatekeeper. 

So, there you have it. My star system at a glance.

Now that that is out of the way, 'Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma is a very good first novel, with interesting characters who made me fall in love -- once I got in the rhythm -- with the written Trinidadian patois. The story pulled me along, but I had a hard time adopting any of the characters, even the most sympathetic ones in the most sympathetic situations. The story ended with a string of highly improbable turns that read like the author believed her story was going in circles so she hauled in a catapult to move things along, a tactic I found unnecessary and distracting. 

Marcia Garcia is a very young seamstress raising two young boys when the book opens. She is swept off her feet by an older police officer, Farouk Karam, with the help of some obeah (black magic), and to say that the course of their very long, perplexing relationship never runs smoothly is a gross understatement. The novel covers just over two decades in their lives together and apart, beginning in the early days of WWII, through to the mid-1960's.

I was certainly interested enough to read it through, and the story, even with the catapult, moved along at a good clip that made it an easy read in a medical waiting room. 

'Til the Well Runs Dry is a good yarn, with some lovely turns of phrase.

Because I had been running, because I hadn't given myself a moment, 
I lost things I didn't know I wanted until wanting them was all I had left. 

My Surly Star System Rating:  ***

Henry Holt and Company
Publication date: April 2014

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