Monday, July 1, 2013

Welcome To Higby - Mark Dunn

   2002; 339 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Comedy; Contemporary Fiction.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    Welcome to Higby, Mississippi. It’s Labor Day weekend 1993, and the townsfolk are making plans to relax by throwing Tripoley parties, playing Stratego, and perhaps making a macaroni painting.  Of course, a little bit of alcohol helps liven up any of these activities.

    But things are amiss in Higby.  Carmen Valentine’s invisible guardian angel has just left on a 2-week vacation, and Clint Cullen has taken a dive from atop the rickety water tower into a swimming pool.  He’ll live, but the weekend is only going to get wackier.

What’s To Like...
    You’ll find Welcome To Higby in the Humor section of your bookstore, and it certainly delivers.  But on a deeper level, it’s a series of stories about dysfunctional Love.  There are tired relationships, lost loved ones, people scared of a relationship, and those who are seeking Divine Love.  For the most part, those searching for love find it, but rarely in the manner they expect.

    You’ll meet a couple dozen of the local residents, and trying to remember who’s related to and/or seeing who is a challenge.  You can take notes if you want, but things soon coalesce into about 5 storylines.  The characters come in various colors, natures, and political and religious mindsets.  Like snowflakes, no two of them are alike.  You’ll find them all likeable, even the Brothers and Sisters of the Blessed Redeemer.  And if you see Muffin, she with the Wayward Steak, please try to catch her.

    Mark Dunn does a superb job of interweaving the humor with the various plotlines.  The chapters are short, which keeps the pace hopping; and each one opens with a snippet of Scripture, which then gets played out in the chapter in a most unforeseen manner.  The books wraps up nicely, with all of the major plotlines tied up.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    “Just look at him.”
    “Look at who?”
    Hank.  He’s right down on his hands and knees tellin’ your cat all about Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”  Nancy Leigh set down her bottle of Windex and turned to Bowmar.  “This doesn’t bother you the tiniest little bit?”
    “I don’t think it would be such a bad thing, Nancy Leigh, if my cat happens to wind up in Heaven.”  (pg. 7)

    Talitha noticed that Joy was still holding the letter for Nancy Leigh in her hand.  Pud had read it first and struck through two lines that he felt might be a little alarmist.  “Help!  Help! I’ve been kidnapped by a religious cult and am being brainwashed even as you read this!” and “There are bloodthirsty Doberman pinchers who will eat me alive if I try to escape!”  At first Pud had merely been troubled by the misspelling of the word “pinschers.”  Then he had second thoughts and scratched through the whole sentence before passing the letter along to Joy.  (pg. 178)

 “We’re all human, when you come right down to it.”  (pg. 110)
    The story may be set in Mississippi, but it brought back some fond personal childhood memories of growing up in a small town (pop. 200) in Pennsylvania.  It was a simpler time, moving at a slower pace, and life’s issues seemed less complex way back then.

    Overall, Welcome To Higby has the tone and “feel” of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, but with the characters much more fleshed out.  Then mix in some crazy and convoluted plot twists like you’d find in one of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels.  If you like those two authors, you’ll enjoy WTH.  One thing to note – there are adult situations and language here, so this is a spicier read.

    9 Stars.  Highly recommended.  Subtract one star if you’ve never lived in a small town, or if you’re too young to remember fax machines and lint-removal rollers.  You don’t know what you've missed.

No comments: