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The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
by Patricia Wood

Putnam Adult, August 2007

Reviewed by Cicily Janus

Finding the sun in Washington State is hard, because you have to be in just the right place.  The sun hides a lot of the time.  I hear the people from California complain to Gary or Keith about never seeing it.  But I know the sun is there.  You just have to know where to look.  I can sit in my room above the Everett Marina and see it in the water like a mirror.  When I see extra brightness through the gray clouds, I can tell exactly where it is. It reminds me of how I have to look for Gram now.  I look in those places for her.  

The sun is red, orange, or maybe yellow and bounces through the sky when I look at it through Yo’s back window.  It is Yo bouncing, but I pretend it is the sun.  I like to bounce...I look out Yo’s window at the sun peeking through holes in the sky, and think about being rich. 

I am rich.  That is so cool.

In her debut novel Lottery, Patricia Wood pens a gleaming vista of wisdom and wit for readers to journey through. The astute Perry L. Crandell, who says he is lucky and honest, and his sassy inscribed Gram serve as your guide. And yes, this novel is written through the voice of a man who has a cognitive disability, but no, this is not your average Forrest Gump rip-off. Lottery is an enduring story of love, human nature and greed.  

Imagine yourself in this situation: Your only reliable source of family is dead, your house has been traded for a few hundred dollars by a lawyer who may or may not be your brother, and the one luxury you afford yourself besides a bag of Hershey’s kisses has just landed you 12 million dollars.  If you were Perry, you would bounce.  Then you would bounce some more and spill your oatmeal everywhere. Logically, your next step would be to go to the people on your list for help, for this list is made of the people whom you can rely on, according to your Gram.  

Written in Perry’s point of view, in simple yet beautiful language, Pat has interwoven constant ribbons of internal dialog threaded by Gram.  In this stunning portrayal of real life for the cognitively challenged placed in a surreal situation, Lottery starts with a tragedy and ends with pure bliss.  

Fall is my favorite time of year, Reader’s Digest is my favorite book, and my favorite candies are Hershey’s Kisses.  I like to wear flannel jackets, I bounce when I’m happy, and my bike is blue with red spray paint…I like to ride my bike to work so I can pretend I am flying or sailing.  Keith and I earn extra cash by working on other people’s boats.  Boats are my favorite thing besides riding my bike.  Sailboats run on water and wind.   

Perry’s world has revolved around predictable schedules all of his life, but Gram’s death ignites a series of events overthrowing his daily routine.  He must say goodbye to everything he once knew, but with the support of his friends and the lack of support from family, he finds his way.  Once the lottery comes into play, the challenge of everyday living takes on a new meaning; but truly, it isn’t Per who sees this as a challenge,  it’s those around him who can’t comprehend the simple way in which he chooses to deal with the stress and chaos the money brings with it.  And in the end, Per learns, that the people who have his best interest in mind are not those who proclaim it out loud.  

The usual suspects arrive day after day through the mail: Letters from scourers for money, poor-down-on-my-luck-need-money-for-operations-and-cruise-tickets, missionaries, high school buddies (except for the fact that Perry didn’t go to High School), and of course Perry is more than happy to help out. He loves helping. It makes him feel good. But Perry’s good heart only goes so far, right?  His family shows up after an extended absence, and this is the surprise.  In the end, his heart goes all the way.  What is refreshing, truthful and right about this novel, is the genuine life Pat breathed into her characters, even the repulsive ones.  Her 3D characterization is wholly unexpected. 

     John’s teeth are bared.  He looks like his wife’s dog,

     Gigi, except he is bigger and does not have curly pink

     hair and a bow…

She has taken the literary cliché ending where Per should get “smart” and change for the better or sour from the money and made it genuine. He stays in character, just as he should.  His transformation is one of happiness, working from within. It’s a subtlety caught between the worlds found only when you expect great things. And when you expect greatness of the world and have throughout your entire life, it doesn’t pop up suddenly; it’s been there all along. 

This is a novel that needs to be read by most of us for the lesson in attitude adjustment. Perry’s simplistic ideals are easy enough to grasp, and what Pat has put on paper is needed to keep the butts of greed and negativity at bay. Her words show you the beauty and ugliness of human nature helping bring to surface the reality of what it really is. After I read this, I had the urge to stop the person next to me and say…read this.  Read it right now; see what Gram has to say about this…and that.  And as Gram says,

It is very important to think of your future, Perry…because at some point it becomes your past.  You remember that!

If we all took that to heart, and listened, this book would pay out more in the real riches than in the material ones won in Pat’s Lottery.  

CICILY JANUS began her life as a writer but somewhere in the middle she got lost as a musician then played around as a nurse. Having found her way back to her original plot, she mostly writes about music, other writers and the invisible people residing in her head. Cicily has been published in a lot of really cool places and her rat, Emma is her biggest fan.  She lives near the Rocky Mountains and often wonders if the constant lack of oxygen is the reason why her poetry no longer rhymes.  In her spare time, she runs a writers retreat as well as a looney-bin.  The writers retreat is still taking applicants but the looney bin is full until further notice.  You may visit her websites for further details: www.cicilyjanus.net or www.writingawayretreats.com.