Thursday, June 25, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Return Policy

From the Back Cover:

In his second book, novelist Michael Snyder introduces us to three very unusual and distinct voices all torn by tragedy: Willy Finneran, washed-up genre novelist with an espresso maker that just won’t die and a habit of avoiding conflict even if it means putting the truth on a sliding scale. Ozena Webb, single mother and Javatek’s top customer service representative. She spends every evening playing board games with her twelve-year-old son who is mentally crippled from an early childhood accident. Shaq, a small and scraggy homeless man with trauma-induced blank spots on his memory, trying to piece together the story of his life while assisting Father Joe at the Mercy Mission. As their stories intersect, the narrative vacillates between hope and naivete, comic relief and postmodern ennui. Startling in its authenticity, this unforgettable novel reveals that no matter how far one has strayed from hope, there is always a way to return

My Review:

I was a little hesitant to read Return Policy. I loved Russell Fink and the characters Michael Snyder created so much that I was a little afraid that he couldn't quite do it again.

Return Policy is a very different book. Same unique lad-lit voice, similar deeply flawed and broken characters, same creative and capable wordsmithing, but very different. This time Snyder uses three first person points of view to tell a series of separate stories that end up connecting in a somewhat unbelievable spider web. I saw a few connections unfolding early on, but a couple snuck up on me right before the t's were crossed and the i's dotted.

Snyder's strengths are in excellent characterization. I grew to care about these people and kept reading to find out what would happen to them, hoping they would find good things at the end of the book. Snyder also manages to write almost heartbreakingly poignant scenes that scream with the unfairness of life and the tragedies that seem to wait around the corner ready to pounce on the unsuspecting and innocent. Gifted with a bizarrely charming sense of humor, Snyder laces his prose with quirky thoughts and situations. The spiritual skeleton in Return Policy is buried under the subtle layering of muscle and skin and becomes the frame on which the story is hung. Bottom line, someone not looking for a religious read may not even notice that Jesus has entered the story.

Not everyone who reads Return Policy is going to love it. Fans of action packed page turning novels will likely get frustrated with the introspection and pace of this novel. Those who read only G-rated and scripture laced fiction may have issues with some of the situations, a few words and the fact that there are no conversions in this story. Discussions, yes, but. Toward the end the pace hurried a bit, and the final strings were tied very neatly, maybe a bit too neatly. I didn't have any trouble following the changing POV, the sections and scenes are marked.

Overall, I'm a solid Michael Snyder fan and look forward to his next novel which I hope is in the works.