Friday, October 7, 2011

Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam

Lamb. Bonnie Nadzam. Other Press, LLC. September 2011. 288 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9781590514375.

David Lamb is a middle-aged man disappointed in life, having recently been asked to take a long break from his job, suffered the death of his father, and having failed in a romantic relationship. So he's got a lot of pent-up hurt and anger inside; at least that's how it feels to the reader. It's not too long before the reader realizes he or she is not breathing often with fear and puzzlement. For David Lamb initially decides to teach 11 year-old Tommie a lesson when she, while her friends are watching, sashays up to him and asks for a cigarette. How he does it is shocking and mind-numbing, eliciting from the reader frantically passing questions about his sanity and her audacity. This is the pace and tone that unremittingly flows in the following pages.

Nadzam has presented what would be a character study of an innocent man trying to simply respond to life as it appears, to find some sense of normalcy in life. Giving something of that nature to Tommie is how David sees something valuable he has to offer. However, kidnapping an 11 year-old girl and rationalizing his way into her life as providing some love and stability, given the lack of some in her own background and present family life, is debatable and never quite convincing as the reader's mind keeps thinking this is all wrong and rather perverse, albeit not overtly so sexually.

Off they travel to the West where David seeks to introduce Tommie to the wild and free wilderness or camp life that turns out to be quite different from what both expect! His girlfriend even manages to show up and become a temporary part of this "family." David says it best, "There is a small person inside of him wishing to tell Tommie all about it and then another person inside of him crushing the wishes like empty beer cans against a cinder-block wall." But still he tries, knowing he will return Tommie to her mother. As their journey proceeds, other memories keep interfering with his plan and make him say things wise, foolish and confusing to Tommie's young ears. At the same time, this is more attention and care than Tammy's parents have given her in her entire life. Perhaps a glimpse inside this complex man or would-be Daddy (and more?) will touch this young girl's life in a positive way forever? Will she ultimately love or hate David long after she returns home? Read and decide!

Lamb is not a novel to like or dislike. It is a thriller that is more about inner thoughts and feelings, about communicating same to another hungry to hear and feel worthy of attention. It makes the reader begin to fully ponder the depth of character in humanity, not easily definable and yet more worthy because of the effort to understand and let the complexity lie as it is without judgment. Lamb is a risky but gripping read for sure!

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