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Jackie Alhman is a single, middle-aged man committed to his work as a political speechwriter. He lives a simple, peaceful life in the background. When a terrible lie threatens to ruin everything, can he stop it? Will he be able to repair the damage? That is the central plot in this novel about lies, motives, and forces of life beyond our control.

Following every side of the story, Stout’s tale is riveting. The tension builds as the liar, a teenage girl who only wants her parents to reconnect, creates and tells the fake story of Alhman hurting her. When her mother reacts with the instinctual urge to protect her children, the reader cringes and fears for Alhman. Throughout the carefully plotted investigation and the ensuing lawsuit, Stout shows that when one person lies, everyone suffers.

This is not a happy book. Yes, Jackie gets his chance for redemption, but everyone’s life is drastically altered by one naïve statement. This book also offers no reassurance. Nothing Jackie could have done would have prevented this from happening. There is no way anyone can prevent this from happening. Furthermore, everyone’s actions are understandable; no one is a villain. Words is as much a critique of media, the national attention span, and human nature as it is a story of a single man.

Filled with a solid plot and precise, professional information on many topics, Words has only one fault. Stout’s writing is clunky. For example, Jackie says at one point, “I loaded the labor saving device, filled the pullout tray with the requisite amount of detergent, spun the dial to the setting that allowed me the most flexibility for combining the greatest variety of clothing in one cycle, and then pushed the start button.” Wouldn’t “I put the laundry in the washer” suffice? I am all for creative language, but only when it serves the plot, and lovingly describing Alhman’s laundry routine does nothing to advance the story. Luckily, the tedious writing does not severely detract from the basic story. Most of the time, I raced through these parts to see what happens next.

Overall, this interesting book offers pointed criticism of many aspects of life along with a likable protagonist and a fascinating story. Pick this up if you like intrigue, dramatic irony, and realism.

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Star Count 3/5
Format Trade
Page Count 398 pages
Publisher CreateSpace
Publish Date 20-May-2012
ISBN 9781470026622
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue December 2012
Category Modern Literature


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