Thursday, 11 September 2014

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Annie didn't usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn't exactly herself these days.

This line works by itself. It's unusual enough to whet curiosity. We learn in the rest of the paragraph Annie is in a car driving in bad weather and tells her suitcase:

"It's only a little snow."

This is the first thing said, meaning a character is talking to a suitcase and I suspect this isn't even a children's story, even though the suitcase seemingly talks back: You know I hate the cold. Adding: How could you bring me to this awful place?

I'm instantly teleported to the Twilight Zone or to a well-written King novel. The next paragraph of narrative text answers and is all of one line:

Because Annie had run out of options. 

I sit and ponder this opening. Yes, it has the car opening cliche and the weather opening cliche, but what makes my mind go blank is the fact that conflict and context are introduced by having a woman talk to her suitcase. Is this a creative way of revealing back story and is pure genius or simply ridiculous? I can see the opening scene of the movie version, though I see it as a cartoon.

Then there is more weather, It's super-duper cold and the suitcase continues to argue with Annie, suggesting she go to Miami instead, when it hits me: This lady is stoned! What other explanation can there be for a talking suitcase? Apparently many, and on page 2 the reader learns that there is another explanation. Annie's packed the suitcases with puppets that are talking to her (in her head) so they can reveal back story for us. So in point of fact she is not really talking to her suitcases in the opening line, making it misleading and somewhat of a false hook.

Then enter other puppet voices and a discussion between the suitcases and Annie ensues. It's actually kind of fascinating, Just like watching The Room is fascinating.

Here is a bit of the conversation between the suitcases:

You know, Annie had no choice but to come here.
Because she's a big failure.
Very unkind...Even if it is true.

Ouch. Very demanding and unsympathetic puppets. Nevertheless, this opening manages to reveal that Annie has issues and is not really as normal as the rest of us, which is the type of character people like to read about. Who wants to read about boring old you and me anyway?

Then a man on a horse in the blizzard cuts in front of her car on the snowy road. Annie thinks at first she's imagining things; the reader starts to wonder how insane this character is and not if she is. Meanwhile, the voices in her head - aka, the puppets - continue to harass her, which predictably begins to wear thin after a while. I don't think I can read much more of this and fear this will continue throughout the book. Annie comes off as psychotic, which translates as annoying in my book.

Still, the abusive self-centered puppets/suitcases should keep people reading for a few pages, at least.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Rudy Globird

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