The Allergic Boy Versus the Left-Handed Girl: A Novel
It’s a rare book that is surprising both in its storyline and format. While the unreliable narrator format has become a new popular trope in books, it’s not often, if ever, that the narrator also knows he’s unreliable. In The Allergic Boy Versus the Left-Handed Girl we have a most unreliable protagonist in the form of Jimmy Nail, who has come to believe that his old college roommate, Peter John “P.J.” Darbin, plagiarized a novel Jimmy had written but never published. Darbin’s novel he Left-Handed Girl has gone on to critical acclaim and Jimmy wants the recognition and money that it has brought. Jimmy’s story had been titled The Allergic Boy (thus the title of this novel about two novels) and both novels focused on Jimmy’s childhood friend Poppy Fowler.
The story is told in parts, moving from current to past and back, with extensive and humorous footnotes the continue the story as Jimmy discusses his life, lawsuit, and anger with his unseen editor. Jimmy suffered a head injury and PTSD during a tour in Vietnam that has left him with debilitating headaches and the aforementioned unreliability of his memory. But of one thing he is certain, P.J. Darbin stole his book and owes him for it. To make things more meta, the “publisher’s” note at the beginning of the book claims that this was potentially non-fiction, but should be shelved as fiction as the facts therein cannot be independently verified.
The writing and dialog are top-notch. What could be a dry accounting of Jimmy’s legal claims against P.J. turn into farce as Jimmy both provides his “proof” of originality of the story, but also can’t help using profanities (also footnoted to tell the editor to not remove them) or digressing into not wanting the term “gridiron” used instead of “football field” because “many potential readers including (women, foreigners and homosexuals) may not even know what a “gridiron” even is.” The effort to tie the current (Jimmy as the unreliable, aged Vietnam vet angrily recounting the harm done to him when he tried to sue P.J. over the plagiarism), the past (as Jimmy recounts his life that included Poppy and PJ and writing The Allergic Boy), the fiction within the fiction (comparisons between both books), and the notes to his future editor of the the whole mess of a manuscript come together as a fun, unique blend of layered fiction that could easily be a train wreck of a novel, but comes together here as a satisfying and entertaining look into the mind and life of Jimmy Nail.
|The Sager Group LLC
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