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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    A Literary Novel of Suspense

    Bonnie Nadzam has written a book, a terrific one, that is as beautiful as it is uncomfortable. She has crafted with care a character, the eponymous David Lamb, who is charismatic as he is conniving. Shortly after attending his father's funeral, Lamb meets Tommie in a CVS parking lot. Tommie is an 11-year old girl, all potbelly and rib cage. When Tommie approaches Lamb for a cigarette after her friends egg her on, Lamb's reaction is to play a trick on them, making like he is kidnapping her. This happens on page 14 and my hands begin sweating and they don't stop until I put down the book. He escorts the girl into his car but drops her off at home without harm done to her. From this point on, Lamb and Tommie form an unlikely friendship meeting clandestinely several times over several weeks. With his father gone, his marriage dissolved, and his coworker-turned-lover, Linnie, at risk of losing her job at the firm because of her sexual involvement with David, Lamb concocts a plan to abduct Tommie to his cabin in the Rocky Mountains because "this sudden and unusual friendship-might be the only bright spot, the only break in her otherwise unscripted life." The delusional David firmly believes the whisking away Tommie is the best thing that can happen to her. This is not hard to accomplish being that Tommie is neglected at home, self-conscious, and impressionable. Lamb buries in her mind images of undivided attention and tenderness in order to persuade her to abscond with him. David Lamb's language is elegant, but the undertone is creepy, and Nadzam reaches poetic heights when writing his dialogue. Lamb is what Robert Greene categorizes as a "rake" in his book, Art of Seduction: "He chooses words for their ability to suggest, insinuate, hypnotize, elevate, infect.The Rake's use of language is demonic because it is designed not to communicate or convey information but to persuade, flatter, stir emotion turmoil, much as the serpent in the Garden of Eden used words to lead Eve into temptation." We get the sense that Lamb's mistress Linnie also fell victim to his rakish words. In the book, the myth of the West is a stand in for David Lamb's life. Lamb builds up in Tommie's mind the West as an idyllic place of expanse, pristine wilderness, and autonomy, but instead we get barbwire, glassless windows, and "boots caked with mud and manure." Like Lamb's life, the West comes short of its expectations. The plot to the novel is straightforward and moves lyrically. Lamb and Tommy leave Chicago for the Rockies. On the road at Lamb's insistence, they must improvise new identities to evade suspicion when they must stop in towns for food and supplies; all the while, sexual tension builds between the middle-aged man and the prepubescent girl. The novel turns into one of suspense and the author is deft in maintaining it. It culminates when their suspicious neighbor at the cabin scrutinizes Lamb's involvement with Tommie (acting as uncle-cum-niece), all the wile, Linnie arrives at the cabin forcing Lamb to keep Tommie furtive in a shed for over a day. Will Tommie be extracted from a grotesque situation, or will she be left under the influence and control of Lamb?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a terrific character study

    Near Chicago, fiftyish David Lamb's wife Cathy left him. Soon after that his father dies. Depressed and grieving, David no longer cares about his job.

    In a strip mall convenience store lot, seventh grader Sydney persuades her friend Tommie to bum a cigarette off of David. He lectures the eleven years old girl for her foolish behavior, but gives her a cigarette. David convinces Tommie to teach her friends a lesson. They pretend he is abducting her, but instead he takes her home. Tommie is stunned as Sydney and the others act indifferent to her kidnapping. David and Tommie begin to see one another as friends until they take a ride to his empty family house in Colorado.

    With a loose nod to Lolita, Lamb is a terrific character study of a lonely middle age adult and the tweener he "mentors". David use of the defense mechanism rationalization that he's providing her a wider experience to defend his time with her enhances the deep look at a very disturbed person. The Colorado neighbors snoop on the odd couple, but readers will wonder whether they will contact authorities or just satiate morbid curiosity. Although David's adult girlfriend's behavior appears almost as odd as that of her boyfriend, fans will appreciate a profound look at a mentally ill person.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Stunning and dangerous with sharp, rusted edges.

    David Lamb is no stranger to hardships. His marriage failed miserably and he¿s just buried his father. While taking a moment after the funeral to gather his thoughts, eleven-year-old Tommie stumbles into his path. She¿s all limbs and freckles, yet there¿s something about the girl that Lamb finds inviting. He decides to take her on a trip. To show her all the things that I girl her age should experience at least once. "And there was nothing wrong with all that, was there? With a guy like him, buying a kid like her a nice lunch, spoiling her a little? It was good for her. It was just a little tonic for his poisonous heart." Although it might sound like a re-telling of Lolita, it is far from that. Lamb is a delicately written novel that explores appropriateness and friendship in a way that at times has you questioning Lamb¿s true intentions. Tommie is hitting that awkward tween stage where every question is answered with a shrug. She¿s seemingly floating along without direction, so when Lamb offers her a trip to his cabin, a place where she can experience everything a young girl her age should, it doesn¿t take long for her to decide that it¿s what she wants to do. In Lamb¿s eyes, he¿s giving her the guidance and attention she so desperately needs. In her eyes, she¿s getting out of her Godforsaken town to see the world. When they begin their trip, it¿s impossible to know what his intentions are. Early into the novel, I felt sure that he was having some sort of a nervous breakdown and although the decision to take the trip was not a wise one, I could see his logic and his reasons for wanting to take it. But as the trip progresses, and as they get to know one another, insecurities and all, things take a turn and that is where I began to question if Tommie was going to make it out of this okay. These moments of doubt were excruciating to read. I literally had internal conversations with myself over what was going on. What disturbed me more, is that there were times where I found myself relating to Lamb. Making excuses for him, if you will. Somehow I wanted this trip to be okay and for them both to be better for having taken it. What makes this novel so complex is that Lamb is good for her, as she is good for him. But what makes this a dangerous, edgy tale is the fact that this fifty-something has taken an eleven-year-old girl across the country and against his better judgement, has fallen in love with her. All of a sudden, his care of her becomes a slightly dark, disturbing affair that had me sitting uneasily on the edge of my seat. When you find your soulmate, does age matter? I got mad at myself for even asking such a question but that is what Nadzam does. She works her magic and makes you question right and wrong. I can¿t go into anymore detail than that, because you must read it to get the full effect, but when a book like this has you cheering for the old guy, you stop and take notice. Lamb is wonderfully complex and rich. It¿s everything that I look for in a book. Content Note: If you shun books that center around child molestation, do not let that keep you from reading this book. This book (in my opinion) does not fall into that category and is not graphic in any way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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