Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Whistling in the Dark" by Lesley Kagen

When I first started reading this book, I had the slightly deflated feeling of, "oh . . . again?" At the beginning, this book seemed like it was going to be just another my-childhood-was-worse-than-yours-and-oh-did-I-mention-there's-a-serial-killer-on-the-loose? books. Not that there is anything wrong with that sort of book. I have enjoyed the heck out of a few of those. But a few too many, perhaps?

I bought this book almost a year ago at my last big Books-A-Million shopping spree, which was before I discovered paperbackswap. I suppose I was attracted to the cover and the $3.97 price tag, because it just doesn't get any better than that for a brand new book. (Or, if it does, you need to tell me where.) I must have picked it up before I got burned out on this sub-genre.

Well, if you're feeling sorry about my disappointment, you can stop right now, because I wasn't very far into the book before it didn't matter anymore. I suppose each book has its own unique story and this one is no different. Or do I mean that this one is different? Either way, it didn't take long before I was caught up in the lives of Troo and Sally O'Malley as they navigated the rough waters of childhood on Milwaukee's Vliet Street in the summer of 1959. It was all I could do to resist reading this book while I was driving.

One thing I liked about this book was seeing Sally's childish observations through my own adult eyes. I could easily see when she was mistaken or led astray by her overactive imagination. Even better, Kagen used this against me. She knew I would become complacent about my omniscience. I thought I had it all figured out, and (although I did correctly guess most of the surprises and rule out most of the red herrings) she had me fooled about the identity of the squishy-shoed killer. I definitely had someone else pegged, and I was so sure I was right! While I love guessing correctly in a mystery, I think I like it even more when I find I've been deluded.


Kathy said...

Also, if you've read this, did you notice the mistake in dates? The story mainly takes place during the summer of 1959, but on page 235 Sally says the last time she saw her dad was August 2, 1959, even though he died 2 years earlier.

Anonymous said...

I've got this one around here somewhere. I love the cover as well. What I like best about what you said in your review was the last sentence. Me too!! I love the guessing and also guessing right, but I also love to be fooled. Thanks for sharing!

Lesley said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Kathy! So glad you enjoyed the story.


Lesley Kagen

Kate said...

This has been on my TBR list - sounds like a good one!

Kathy said...

Kay and Kate, I look forward to hearing what you think of this book!

Lesley, how exciting for me to receive a blog visit from the author herself! Had I known you were coming, I would have tried to find a bit more to say about your book, but I'm afraid I had just enjoyed an excellent glass of wine and was in a zone of mellow-ness that did not invite further contemplation.

Thank you all for stopping by!

Lisa R said...

Like you I've had this book for awhile and it keeps getting pushed farther and farther down in my pile. I have seen several great reviews on it in just the last couple of weeks so now might be a good time to dig into it.

Kathy said...

Yes, Lisa, give it a try and tell me what you think! I wonder what attracted you to the book in the first place, and I wonder what has been making you push it farther down in your TBR pile?

Elle said...

Sounds good! I haven't read that many books about bad childhoods - I just think they'll make me feel depressed. I stay away from books like A Child Called It or Push. I'm glad the mystery aspect worked well - I love it when I'm fooled into thinking someone else is the killer (although it makes me feel a bit stupid). :P

Kathy said...

I don't know A Child Called It, and I haven't read Push, but I kind of know the gist of that one--and don't worry, Whistling in the Dark is NOTHING like Push. Sally and Troo have a comparatively idyllic childhood. They're a little on the poor side, and they're neglected during the summer that this book takes place, but it could have been a whole lot worse for them. I really didn't find it depressing. It's not like The Glass Castle.