Saturday, May 14, 2011

I wish I had better news to report...

Sweet Jiminy
by Kristin Gore

As a big fan of all things Gore, it gives me no pleasure to pronounce Sweet Jiminy, well, a train wreck. I don’t know what happened. I read Ms. Gore’s debut, Sammy’s Hill, several years ago. It was flawed, but at least entertaining. This one is flawed, and notably unentertaining.

Here’s the story: Out of the blue, one day 25-year-old Jiminy Davis up and decides that the life of a Chicago law student is not for her. Not knowing what else to do with herself, or where to turn, she shows up at the door of her maternal grandmother, Willa Hunt, in Fayeville, Mississippi. While there, she embarks upon an interracial romance, and generally gets the town good and stirred up. One of her discoveries during this period is that she was named after an earlier Jiminy. That Jiminy was the daughter of her grandmother’s friend/maid, Lyn. Teenage Jiminy and her father Edward were murdered in a brutal and unsolved hate crime back in 1966. When contemporary Jiminy starts digging into the past, most citizens of Fayeville clam up tight. So, she brings in outside help in the form of Hispanic truth-finder Carlos Casteverde. Because, of course, once the truth is finally brought to light, the hate that has poisoned this town for decades will finally be exorcised.

Does that sound like some sort of unholy John Grisham/Harper Lee mash-up? I only wish. On the plus side, the novel is mercifully short. However, that may be its biggest flaw. The story jumps around from POV to POV, constantly, and with jarring abruptness. One moment a character is fighting for their life in the hospital. The next, they’re back at home and on their feet again, with absolutely no transition or explanation between the two. If one were being extremely charitable, one might describe the novel as episodic, but the episodes aren’t particularly interesting, and Gore does nothing to hook her audience into continued reading.

Additionally, in the space of 240 pages, a huge cast of characters is introduced, but most are insufficiently fleshed out to differentiate them. Despite the heavy (some might say clich├ęd) subject matter, there are out of place comedy elements present, making me wonder in passing if it was all some kind of satire I really, really wasn’t getting? Even the romantic subplot at the heart of the novel was a dismal, ridiculous failure.

Oh well, I would have read this in no time flat—if I didn’t keep falling asleep. On a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’m not kidding. (I still love you, Al Gore!)

2 comments:

  1. Ouch! Your last two star review had an interesting resolution, though...

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  2. Hi Care,

    Well, you know me, I'm a generous rater and I'd rather sing a novel's praises than tear it down, but sometimes you just gotta tell it like it is. After I wrote this review, I did a search to see what other reviewers weer saying. Sweet Jiminy got a negative review in PW, and I found a review by Lisa Scottoline in the Washington Post touching on all the same comments I made.

    Oh, as for my last 2-star review, that was A Discovery of Witches. I believe you are referring to Jason Pinter's Faking Life, which was 1-star all the way.

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