Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Review: Buffalo Lockjaw

Summary: James Fitzroy isn’t doing so well. Though his old friends in Buffalo believe his life in New York City is a success, in fact he writes ridiculous taglines for a greeting card company. Now he’s coming home on Thanksgiving to visit his aging father and dying mother, and unlike other holidays, he’s not sure how this one is going to end. Buffalo Lockjaw introduces a fresh new voice in American fiction. -- Hyperion

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up BUFFALO LOCKJAW by Greg Ames, but I don't think the book's description does it justice. This debut novel is an extremely powerful book that touched my heart deeply. So many of the issues in this novel, but especially the ones dealing with aging parents, are concerns that many readers will relate to. As I read this novel, I just kept thinking that it is so scary to get old. As depressing as parts of this book are, I still thought it was a wonderful (and enjoyable) read.

One of the main reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that I just loved James. He is a terrific character even though (or maybe because) he is such a mess. I am so glad that he was the narrator for this story because I really enjoyed getting inside his not-always stable mind. In so many ways, I think dealing with aging parents makes people grow up; and I thought this book was partially about James getting a grip on his life, his drinking, his job, etc. (or at least I hoped he'd be able to get a handle on everything.) I also appreciate how the author showed how difficult it was for James to go back home. Why is it that so many things never seem to change in your hometown, but it's always hard to fit in again?

Another thing that I thought was just terrific about BUFFALO LOCKJAW was how the author compared the decline of James' hometown Buffalo with the mental and physical decline of his mother. It was clear that James desperately wanted to treasure his good memories of both Buffalo and his mother, and the reader finds James reminiscing quite a bit about the "good old days." The author described the city of Buffalo (both past and present) so well that it actually became another character in this novel. And, I liked how Mr. Ames wove snippets of James' interviews with Buffalo citizens into this book. I definitely think it enhanced the novel and really brought the city to life.

I thought Ms. Ames did a wonderful job with his debut novel. He is truly a gifted writer; and at times, I was blown away by his prose and dialogue. This book deals with some very heavy issues such as Alzheimer's, and the author was still able to infuse so much humor into the novel. I can't imagine how difficult it is to successfully write about these serious topics while also managing to make the reader laugh. I think that's one of the reasons that I appreciated this novel so much. I am looking forward to more books by Mr. Ames in the future.

This book would make a most fantastic discussion book. In fact after I finished this book, I desperately wanted to talk about it with someone. There is a fantastic website devoted to this book, and there are also discussion questions available. I'm glad that BUFFALO LOCKJAW is being discussed today on Everyday I Write the Book. Head over there to see what other's are saying about this book.

A big thanks goes out to Gail from Everyday I Write the Book and Hyperion for sending me this book!

10 comments:

Melanie said...

I agree, the book description does not do a good job of describing the book. I was totally expecting something different in the story.

Beth F said...

Nice review -- sounds like one I should add to my list.

underthecoversandreading said...

I lived in buffalo for several years and I admit I would never have considered reading this book without your review. I've yet to read anything that did justice to such an interesting and underappreciated city (even the cover snowstorm photo looks cliched). I'm looking forward to getting a copy now. Thanks!

Ladytink_534 said...

I've got a soft spot for Hyperion books because it's a Disney owned company (that doesn't necessarily mean I always enjoy them when I do read them though). I haven't read this one yet but it does sound like a good discussion novel! I'll have to nominate it for one of my online book group reads.

bermudaonion said...

Great review. It is scary to get old, but it's also scary to watch your parents get old. Mine are 89 and 82 now. My dad has become pretty feeble and it breaks my heart to see him like that. This does sound like a book I could relate to.

Ti said...

You sold me on this one and I had no desire to read it until your review. Just added it to my TBR list on GoodReads.

Missy said...

Great review! I definitely want to read this book....

Jessica said...

I, too, loved Buffalo as a character. The snippets from James's stint as an urban ethnographer were some of my favorite parts.

However, I just couldn't relate to James. He was a little too messed up for me. Also, as I mentioned in my own review, I was left hanging by several of the plots that were left undeveloped.

In all, though, I enjoyed the book and think that it is one to discuss.

Stephanie said...

This one sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the well thought out review!

Nicole said...

This sounds fabulous Julie. Thanks for the great review.