In my self-assigned role as a self-proclaimed book critic/reviewer, there are some challenges, not the least of which is how to deal with a book you did not love. Especially when the author shows signs of real talent, and particularly when that talented author has generously shared a free copy of his book with you. I find myself in such a predicament with Graham Parke’s No Hope for Gomez! What to say, what to do?
First off, what I didn’t like about the book could be completely personal to me. All the elements of a great story are there: mystery, humor, romance, surprises, and really solid writing. But it just didn’t grab me.
Which is not to say there weren’t moments of greatness, and even laugh out loud humor. For example, the line “Every once in a while you come across a novel that reminds you why you think you enjoy reading in the first place.” Who can’t relate to that? And the equally thought-provoking “Sometimes there was just no joy in getting what you wanted.” That’s word.
There was one part of the book too, which though I think it was intended to be completely humorous, was actually an insightful view on what true love looks like. When Gomez is considering whether to pursue his love interest, Dr. Hargrove, he conducts a thought experiment, asking whether if, in the future, she fell victim to a paralyzing accident, he could envision himself still being in love with and happily taking care of her. I thought this was a creative illustration of the “in sickness and in health” vow married people make, and questions how literally those obligations are undertaken.
The book also managed to make stalking (and even stalker-stalking) seem like a completely normal and healthy pursuit. I don’t know if any other author has ever even attempted to broach that subject.
Parke also bravely addressed the nice guys finish last vs. bad boy/hard to get conundrum, and how far is too far on either end of that spectrum. Like I said, there were lots of interesting ideas and moments.
As many authors have attempted to do of late (Maria Semple in Where Did You Go, Bernadette comes most immediately to mind), Parke makes efforts to blur the line between traditional and more contemporary online writing by creating his book entirely out of a series of “blog posts.” This fell flat for me. Mostly because they did not read or feel like blog posts. It read like the story had been written out straight, and then broken into hundreds of smaller posts with the header “blog post.” While I admire the ambition of writing a novel completely in the form of blog posts or even emails or letters, I think it’s a challenge, I have yet to see anyone do it well, and this effort struggles with many of those same difficulties that have challenged other like-minded avant garde authors.
There is a line of thinking that no publicity is bad publicity. There is also a masochistic group of readers out there who, upon reading a negative review of a book, cannot rest until they have read that book and formed their own opinion. I did not hate this book, I think Parke shows great promise, and he is clearly clever and very funny. If anyone else has read it, I would love to exchange thoughts and ideas. Maybe I missed something. Always a distinct possibility.