Friday, September 29, 2006

DIGGING TO INDOCHINA by Connie Biewald (iUniverse)

Connie Biewald's novel is comprised of literary favorites: a teenage girl suffering from the loss of her father (a Vietnam veteran who did not die in the war but by accidental means after returning home), the overwhelming ennui of small town life, a family that has seemed to alienate her, and a restless desire for love and contentment.

Where these items lead, however, is the real enjoyment of this book.

You'll be only a few pages into DIGGING TO INDOCHINA before you sit back in your La-Z-Boy and cozy up for a long night of reading. And you'll read even less before admitting that Connie Biewald is a wordsmith. She manages to grasp complex points and deliver them with deft accuracy:

All the old photos showed happy people. The only record of the raging fights between their parents was the mutable one of memory. Ivy and Bryan carried their own versions of those short years as a family of four, more distinct than mere variations on a recipe, more like the difference between chocolate and vanilla.

The story, ultimately, is of the aforementioned Ivy, a seventeen-year-old girl in search of the love missing from her crumbling family, how she finds it in a guy named Gil Thompson, a man who goes from lover to abuser, and Ivy's return home, pregnant and disintegrating.

Sounds like a downer, I know--but so does THE LOVELY BONES until you get to the core of what is going on. The book is absolutely worth a read, if for no other reason than the delightful writing. If you've had your fill of cookie-cutter thrillers, take a break and read something that will make you think; I'll bet, just like me, the characters will still be inside your head several days later.

Just superb stuff! Perfect for fans of Alice Sebold and Anne Tyler.

And, as luck would have it, iUniverse added it to their Star collection. Which means it's cheap. You can get it on Amazon for $10.17, which is less than the price of a pizza. Why not feast on some words for a change?