Book Review: Lottery by Patricia Wood
Reviewed by Jen
After reading the shortlisted books for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction, I considered why I enjoyed some more than others. And I came to the conclusion that I like books to work on multiple levels and I like to be entertained. Lottery achieved both.
The book addresses a broad range of themes, society's values and prejudice, and the power of unconditional love, narrated from the unreliable point of view, of thirty-two year old Perry, whose IQ is 76. He is cognitively-challenged, NOT retarded. "You have to have an IQ of less than 75 to be retarded. "
The story centers on what happens to him, how he is perceived by others and the decisions he makes, after the key catalysts that trigger the action-packed story: his Gram dies and he wins twelve million dollars in the State Lottery.
It's funny, it's sad, serious and easy reading. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's insubstantial. The more you delve into the relationships between the characters and Perry's perception of them and theirs of him, you are forced to examine your own prejudices and values. The relationships are all beautifully crafted, authentic and serve to make us question: What weighting to we give to intelligence, beauty and wealth? What do we value in life? What makes a family?
The language is very carefully selected and used to enhance our understanding of the characters, reveal prejudices or make the reader laugh.
"My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded. Gram always told me the L stood for lucky."At first, the use of the "r" word might make you feel awkward. Later you see how it is used by various people in authority, his schoolmates and what language is used by those trying to be sensitive to his position 'on the boundary' between the labels that IQ numbers assign. Author Patricia Woods' academic and hands-on teaching experience of people in these groups is apparent in her authentic but sensitive writing. That word makes Perry angry but he always keeps in control.
Perry sees the world as it is for him. Sometimes we need to remember that he is not meant to be a 100% factually accurate narrator. He narrates his own story, as he sees it. The short sentences allow us to see his thought patterns develop, the connections he makes, and his sometimes highly sensitive and accurate perception of people. We get to see inside his thoughts, hope with him, dream with him and share in his contentedness. Perry is a man who is not sidetracked by some of the worldly distractions in the everyday world, and keeps his focus on doing his best at his work, helping people and simply being himself, no matter how other people see him.
In today's economy, it is wonderfully heartwarming to have the opportunity to meet Perry, and have him remind us, what the real world is like and what really matters, from such a grounded point of view. And to have the opportunity to laugh whilst examining our own values, is a bonus.
This book's story lingers with me as a reader. Read it slowly, as Per would, to appreciate it fully. You'll be sad to get to the end. And immensely happy. As Gram would say, "This is better than chocolate bars!"
To win a Lottery signed bookplate from author Patricia Wood, leave a comment below and we'll draw a winner from all the entrants out of a hat - our very own little lottery. Competition closes: March 20th after Part Two of our interview with Pat.
Read the interview with author Patricia Wood. Part 1 here and Part 2 here.