Flawless Skin of Ugly People

( 11 )


Thanks to Ugly Betty, America is finally ready to read a love story about a couple who isn’t sleek, slick, tucked, pulled, or plastic.

Do we have to be beautiful to be loved? Hobbie—this novel’s darkly romantic hero—has been banished to homely man exile in the North Georgia Mountains, where his enemies are mirrors and bears. Things are not going well for Hobbie. His skin? Pizza Face, super-sized, with extra pepperoni and pitted olives. Job status? Former bank teller. Love life? ...

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The Flawless Skin Of Ugly People

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Thanks to Ugly Betty, America is finally ready to read a love story about a couple who isn’t sleek, slick, tucked, pulled, or plastic.

Do we have to be beautiful to be loved? Hobbie—this novel’s darkly romantic hero—has been banished to homely man exile in the North Georgia Mountains, where his enemies are mirrors and bears. Things are not going well for Hobbie. His skin? Pizza Face, super-sized, with extra pepperoni and pitted olives. Job status? Former bank teller. Love life? His common-law wife Kari has gone AWOL at a weight-loss clinic in North Carolina.

But just as it seems Hobbie is doomed to go through life as a sweet, self-pitying “anonymous joke,” he jumps out of his skin and becomes downright heroic.

Can Hobbie rescue Kari from the weight-loss clinic? Can he pull his fractured family together? Plastic surgery—will he or won’t he? Will love endure if Hobbie’s skin clears up, Kari drops pounds, and ugly people become flawless? Readers won’t be able to put the book down until they find out.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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"Love is blind." The truth of this cliché has never been more thoughtfully or movingly examined than in Crandell's debut novel. In today's world of Botoxed and surgically altered humanity, this refreshing tale of inward goodness and outward imperfection raises some troubling questions about how our experiences affect our appearance, and vice versa.

Holed up in north Georgia, the acne-riddled Hobbie lives a solitary existence. For years, he and his girlfriend, Kari (who weighs about as much as an NFL linebacker), have moved from town to town, avoiding ties with other people. But Kari has recently entered a weight-loss clinic, and in her absence, Hobbie is having trouble maintaining his anonymous existence.

Crandell weaves the funny and outrageous with the sad and disturbing. Hobbie's new life without Kari is quickly populated with quirky people and hilarious interactions. But as he reflects on his shared history with Kari, he's forced to consider that the consequences of such a past are more far-reaching than he'd ever allowed himself to think. (Holiday 2007 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

Hobbie, the narrator of this endearing debut novel, prefers the company of his beloved mutt, Terry, to the companionship of most humans. Hobbie, who has a blistering case of chronic acne, and Kari, his obese girlfriend of 20 years, continually aggravate their situations: Hobbie picks at and further inflames his bad skin while Kari eats in response to a shared tragedy from their youth. When the novel opens, Kari's ensconced at a weight-loss clinic hundreds of miles from their temporary north Georgia home, and Hobbie lives like a hermit until he's attacked by a bear. While recovering, he's sucked into the messy world of Kari's father, Roth, and slowly, clumsily becomes part of Roth's family once Kari goes missing from the clinic. Crandell has an exquisite eye for small details-Kari's letters home are written on "lined paper, the same kind we wrote love notes on"-that lend a tender feel to what could easily be overwrought. Though the novel turns on some unconvincing plot twists (particularly in the concluding section), the characters and situations are so simultaneously moving and unique that a bit of contrivance doesn't sink this tale of misfit love. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This bittersweet first novel centers on Hobbie, an unemployed bank teller with terrible acne who's holed up in a secluded rental home in the north Georgia mountains. He's waiting despondently for common-law wife and true love Kari to complete an in-patient weight-loss program in Durham, NC, with only their aging dachshund, Terry, for company. Hobbie and Kari have been together since junior high, when the discovery that they were both sexually abused by a church deacon forged a bond. Since then, it's been the two of them against the world, seeking jobs in anonymous suburbs because "if we live in the suburbs we'll just be another couple that hates their lives. No one will bother us." It takes a freak bear attack to galvanize Hobbie, who finds the courage to overcome his past, rescue Kari, and reunite their strange but loving family again. Crandell has a gentle touch with his characters, who are very sympathetic despite their inner flaws and outward appearance. An easy purchase; strongly recommended for all public libraries [This marks the launch of Virgin Books USA.-Ed.]
—Christine Perkins

Kirkus Reviews
In the Georgia-based author's debut, a sweet-natured misfit with a debilitating acne problem takes heroic steps to gain control of his life after his live-in girlfriend takes residence at a fancy fat-farm. Hiding out from the judging eyes of a harsh and beauty-fixated world may have become a way of life for 37-year-old Hobbie, but since high school he at least had a partner with whom to share his exile, his long-time love Kari. With his cystic acne and her obesity, the couple traveled from suburb to suburb, never staying anywhere long enough to make friends or live up to their potential. Tellingly, both were molested by the same church deacon as young teens, shattering their self-images. So when Kari finally decides to make a change in her life and enrolls in a strict in-patient weight-loss program in North Carolina, Hobbie is understandably bereft. Left with their small dog Terry in rural Georgia, and forbidden to contact Kari, he subsists on regular missives that document her rapidly diminishing weight. Wondering when, or if, he will ever see her again, he is shaken out of his stupor when Terry is attacked by a bear. Hobbie fights off the hungry animal with an umbrella and wakes up with an impressive gash on his already ravaged face. Taken in by his de-facto father-in-law Roth-a church bookkeeper guilt-ridden over what happened to his daughter and Hobbie-he discovers a family secret that Kari and her father had been keeping from him. But it is when Roth is suddenly felled by a stroke that Hobbie decides to stop waiting and go after Kari. He hits the road with Roth, Terry and Kari's estranged mom Sally, in a tragicomic quest to save her from herself. Along the way, Hobbie comes to termswith his past and starts to actually see a future. Full of insight and wonderfully complex characters, this deceptively slim work is emotionally satisfying-assuming readers can get past the frequent gross descriptions of Hobbie's skin condition. Gently comic depiction of love's power to heal internal and external wounds. Agent: Robert Guinsler/Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780753512999
  • Publisher: Virgin Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Doug Crandell’s short stories and essays have appeared in numerous magazines, including Smithsonian, Atlanta Magazine and Writer’s Digest and his two non-fiction books were published by small presses. Flawless Skin, his first novel was a finalist for the William Faulkner Prize. Crandell lives in Marietta, Georgia.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2010


    Enjoyed this book. Extremely well-written. The characters are dynamic, each in their own way. Most of us have some kind of imperfection, or what we may perceive as an imperfection. I disagree with the reviewer who thought this was depressing. It is anything but. It delves into real-life situations and insecurities and offers a light at the end of the tunnel. As to the sexual abuse problem: It sheds light on the fact that this problem occurs within other clerics (not just Catholics priests).

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    I loved this engaging, insightful novel!

    Doug Crandell has beautifully written a captivating, imaginative and poignant story of love, family and redemption. Hobbie and common-law wife, Kari, share a childhood trauma...both were sexually abused by the same church deacon. Hobbie suffers from a severe acne problem, which he aggravates by excessively picking at his face when stressed. Weary of enduring people's stares, he and his obese wife lead a reclusive and unsettled life. As the story begins, Kari has made the decision to heal by secluding herself in a weight-loss facility. Narrator Hobbie seeks to unravel a web of lies when Kari checks out but doesn't return home. Through flashbacks, their lifelong love story, as well as Kari herself, is revealed. As a result of relationships forged on his quest, Hobbie finds the courage to emerge from hiding and return to society. He discovers that loving and caring for others leads to true inner healing. Mr. Crandell has magnificently created a truly intriguing storyline with a cast of fascinating, endearing characters. He is gifted with the ability to incite empathy for these flawed individuals. This remarkably insightful tale taught me much. I learned that its never too late to find the courage to change and to stop hiding from the shame and pain of the past. Also, the story shows that it's possible to find a deep sense of family in the least likely places and situations. Reading this has inspired me to examine my own life by encouraging me to look at people in a different way...to disregard the outside and see only the beautiful inside. In addition, I could really relate to these characters...to the feeling of being an outsider and also fearing the disapproval of myself and others. I absolutely loved this heartwarming story and I HIGHLY recommend it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    Unless you like depressing books, don't waste your time!

    Don't be fooled by the "fun" cover on this book. This is one of the most depressing, narcissistic, pessimistic books I've read in a long time. There is not one likeable character, they are ALL dysfunctional and weak, at some points it's hard to follow the story line when it keeps flashing back to other times in the narrarator's life, the storyline seems interesting in the beginning, but by the end I was so frustrated with the simple and unresolved ending that I just felt pissed off that I wasted my time reading this book! Beyond that, if you like to sip tea or munch on snacks while you read books, don't bother with this one! For as often as he hammers into the reader, with such complete detail, how repulsive the main character's acne is, and the ritual in which he mutilates his face to try to get rid of it, most of every chapter left me feeling nauseated. If I want to feel this bad about humanity, I will dig up the numbers for that side of my family that I try to forget I actually have a blood relation to. I hope on a positive note, this author at least made some money sharing his depressing tale. Makes me want to write my own book if this one won any kind of award. I can't imagine who is doing the judging on that one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2008

    Simple People with Complicated Issues

    A junior at NYU, I was first introduced to Crandell's novel, 'The Flawless Skin of Ugly People' through my sorority as a part of our monthly book club. Through word of mouth, we heard about the tale and thought to give it a go. It never occured to me that I possessed the ability to form such a close relationship with a novel. Page one introduces us to the novel's main character, Hobbie, who I felt sympathy for, but at the same time struggled to understand. Hobbie had a terrible skin issue, yet wouldn't get the proper help, such as Accutane. He mentioned a few times that he tried some medications, but I felt the skin issue became his mask - he hid behind it so he would always have some excuse to blame why he insufficent. Kari, his wife who was away at fat camp, refused to speak to Hobbie on the phone or see him in person. Any words we hear of Kari's come from the letters that she writes him, which are not very detailed. We learn a lot about Kari through Hobbie's interaction with her father and her mother. We never hear Kari speak once. The details in Crandell's novel are exquisite and imaginative, and are well worth your time. The characters could have been a little more developed for my taste, but the way they interact with one another overrides this minor gliche beautifully. I would suggest this quick read if you are interested in discovering true beauty in the people who surround you day to day. Flawless Skin will adapt your state of mind to a more open, accepting, and loving perspective.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2007


    I find the reviewer above's comment, vapid, irrelevant, and a waste. When you read this title you will understand that one day this writer will be extremely well known and that you were glad to have discovered him now. This book shines with brilliance, I was gripped and never wanted it to end, its written with such clarity that you visualise the characters perfectly, and you really feel for Hobbie and his urgency to find his girl.Trust me its unputdownable!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    Far from Ugly company

    Doug Crandell writes this, his first novel, with authenticity that so matches the candor of his two stellar memoirs, 'Pig Boy's Wicked Bird' and 'An All American Industrial Motel', that you turn page after page awaiting a contextual link. You won't find it because this work of fiction is exactly that, but rings so true and so tellingly of it's characters that you are left looking for them in your daily life, just hoping you will have the pleasure of their far from ugly company.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2007

    Vanilla Skin

    This title is well written and fluid, but isn't the page-turner I hoped for such an original premise. There is so much unexploited potential in the story, but concision wins over one lengthier and more moving. I like short books, but going for the whole 'inside beauty' approach needs more than offered here to break beyond cliche.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    In this book, Crandell weaves a wonderful tale that points out both the shallowness and the depth of modern life without ever being sappy or cliche. The story is simple, with depth. There's a taste of Sherwood Anderson 'ah, don't you love stories with bears?', a bit of Faulkner, and the quick plot lines of Chekhov. Still, this book is original and heartfelt. This would make a great movie!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    I have struggled with the same addiction to picking as the main character. Although, I have never had bad acne-it has been a way that I have dealt with some of the trauma I experienced when I was younger. In reading this book, I have found that it is not just me, there are others who struggle with this and know it is not right but still can't help it. Through his writing, Doug Crandell has encouraged me to begin talking about my problem with loved ones and start the process of healing myself internally so that I am able to see my beauty when I look in the mirror instead of actively destroying it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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