Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Man Who Loved Too Much: Archipelago

23595699This is the story of Billy Green. When he was just turning four, his father tried to throw him in the trash. He was a smart kid but that just seemed to create enemies.

His mom did everything to protect him. But this was Detroit, armpit of the wasteland! Catholic school didn’t help much, except the time he got his first kiss from an atheist nun. Home life was dismal. Was his father capable of anything but drinking beer and farting? And what was with that neighbor who made puppets and tried to molest Billy? Golly! Detroit was sucking the life out of him. At such a young age!

Then adolescence swirled around him. Like water in a toilet bowl. High school was a B movie. Only without a plot. So finally he did something about it. Billy ran away… to college. Cornell University. That was a good move for sure! He studied hard, lost his virginity, met the love of his life. Things were definitely looking up! What could possibly go wrong? Isn’t that what we always ask?

*May Contain Spoilers*

I finished reading John Rachel's novel, The Man Who Loved Too Much: Archipelago , a couple of days ago and have been struggling to put my opinion on character strength into words. The entire novel is undoubtedly about Billy Green, from infancy to sophomore year in college. The writing style is unique and fresh. But somewhere the book has an itch that I can't seem to scratch. 

Billy Green is a singularity. He was raised by an over-attendant mother and an alcoholic father. He should have been a spoiled brat or a resentful rebel but he grew up to be neither. Readers witness his growth into a deep thinker who's honest, loyal, confused by love, and a genuinely good character. The way that Rachel shares Billy's entire story, instead of a snippet of time with references to his past, lets the reader connect more with his character. 

However, the main plot seems to be the love story between Billy and Natalie, which doesn't start until his college years. Though the relationship with his father is an interesting novel aspect, as is the reaction to his mother fighting cancer. But, again, that doesn't start until his college years. I enjoyed Billy's character, and his adventure into the beginnings of adulthood, but I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if the focus was on the struggle of evolving relationships as the character comes of age. It seemed like the first parts of the novel, which revealed a near pedophile incident and a chaste first kiss with a nun, were just long-winded introductions to the main story line. 

It's tough to weigh character connection and in-depth descriptions against the overall intrigue of the story when also trying to assign a rating to a book. John Rachel's novel was well-written, with only a few mistakes here and there. It was funny, witty, and shocking at times. But most importantly, I cared about Billy and sincerely wanted him to end up with someone good. Not sure if that's Natalie, as she seems a little flighty and secretive (Pam = step mother?), but as a reader I want Billy to have a happy ending. And I think most readers will feel the same way, which shows a definitive bond between reader and character.

Rating: 2.5/5 Cups

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