All the ingredients are here for a really readable family saga, which chronicles the setbacks and challenges of farmers and small-town businesses in California, beginning shortly before Pearl Harbor.
Ne’er do well Chuck brings bigamy, havoc, heartache, and death to those around him, as he flits between California and Alaska. The tale re-awakens memories of a time now gone, when life was more relaxed. And of society’s attitudes, where husbands were forgiven, even indulged, in their “manly” escapades and wives blamed themselves for all marital problems, even miscarriages.
Dialogue and private thoughts are the book’s main strength. The author has an ear for individual voices, what people are thinking and, more especially, their true character. The real Chuck comes through when he speaks, revealing a pretty unpleasant charlatan and puncturing the front he puts on in public.
Patricia Everett’s weakness is that she tells the story almost as a personal chronicle—there are obviously events she was involved in—that comes through as being intended for those of her immediate circle and not for a wider readership. Enormously detailed accounts of mundane daily activities put off the reader, while too little attention is devoted to the important milestones, including the pivotal murder. Events that are of interest to the author make the reader’s eyes glaze over, such as the names of every guest and their relationship at Thanksgiving dinner, instead of boiling it down to something like ” 16 family members sat down.” A wonderful one-sentence description of what Chuck’s wife thinks of their marriage is lost in the detail of exactly who is going on what rides at a funfair.
A professional editor could easily set about the story, cut it by half, and bring the potential level to the near crackerjack.
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