Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam

#BeatTheBacklist book 10
2017 book 10

Format: Print (paperback)
Length: 275 pages
Published: 2011

All I knew about this book when I picked it up is that it is about a middle aged guy who befriends a weird young girl.  I guess I should have guessed what would happen next, but I’m a little naive.  On behalf of all of us naive readers out there, how about a trigger warning when books are about pedophiles?  huh?  maybe?

I’m not squeamish.  I will read a book with a pedophile character if it has merit.  Nabokov’s Lolita is an amazing work of literature and Tom Perrotta’s Little Children is a great book about parenthood and relationships and obsession.  I just need a little warning please.  I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Nadzam’s novel is a character study.  The main character, David Lamb is a down on his luck middle-aged man.  He is fundamentally dishonest, lying when honesty would suffice.  He has some seemingly conflicting character traits – he is impulsive yet calculating, narcissistic and self-loathing.

When the novel opens, Lamb’s wife has left him, he has just buried his father, and he is about to be fired from his job.  He is waiting for something to happen when he meets Tommie, a lonely eleven year old girl.  He immediately begins flattering her, giving her gifts, making promises, and eventually abducting her. He convinces her at every step that they are partners in crime embarking on an adventure together.

The relationship between Lamb and Tommie was probably obviously that of a predator and victim from the beginning, but I thought at first that it might be something else.  I suspected this of being one of those heartwarmingly improbably friendships that transform the lives of two sad people, or something like that.  I am glad that it wasn’t.  That would have been trite and schmaltzy and I would have slammed Nadzam’s formulaic story telling.  Instead Lamb (the character) tells himself that story while actually living a different one and that is good story telling.

Nadzam’s strengths as a story teller are obvious, but this book would have been more powerful as a short story.  The characters and their relationship are interesting and well written, but would have packed more of a punch in about 200 fewer pages.

I am working my way through my TBR list, (while steadily adding to it) as part of my 2017 Beat The Backlist challenge.  You can see my list with links to reviews here.

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