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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review on Lost In Seattle by Ghanshyam Iyyengar

Lost In Seattle – A novel that traces social turmoil in the after math of the recession
Khurshid Alam, Editor-in-Chief, Contemporary Literary Review India

Review on Lost In Seattle by Ghanshyam Iyengar

Bruce Louis Dodson, in his debut novel Lost in Seattle, tracks the economic slowdown that descended in 2008 on America and its impact through the middle-aged character William Brenner.
Willie, who once had a well-paid job, ruled the roost until his organization, like many others, bit the dust.
Willie, who once had a well-paid job, ruled the roost until his organization, like many others, bit the dust. Financially and socially broken, Willie is forced now to shuffle from one temp job to another.. Divorced and unable to bring his ailing mother to stay with him, the protagonist watches his credit card debt pile up. As the walls close in, he toys with the idea of accepting the bribe of a job to give false testimony against a friend.

Willie is forced to live in acute loneliness and decides to find joys wherever he can and with whoever he can; a parrot, a drug addict, and a sexy artist. Willie temporarily brings home Lulu, the parrot, but the feathered companion soon becomes an indispensible part of his life. He rescues George, his African-American fellow temp worker, from a work accident and unwittingly sparks an unusual friendship between them. However, his ultimate bliss lies in the company of the tempting Alice.
Lost in Seattle is a story of frustration and depression – and the will to float instead of sink.
Lost in Seattle is a story of frustration and depression – and the will to float instead of sink. Willie becomes a victim of the recession and struggles to regain balance in his life. Working various odd jobs as a temporary worker and trying to make ends meet, Willie befriends people he never thought he would as he is thrown headfirst into hazardous manual jobs.

The highlight of William’s new life is his intimate relationship with a much younger woman, an artist, Alice. In order to impress Alice, Willie starts to write, creating a story around the experiences of his mother, Faith, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The next turning point in his life comes when his young daughter, Mary, arrives from a Buddhist monastery, to live with him. Her composure and quiet optimism brings real warmth into Willie’s otherwise cold and dreary life. With the help of Mary’s efforts, Willie is able to reconnect with his ex-wife Laurie, whom he still loves. The story closes with hopes of a new beginning in his personal as well as professional life, but hints at further struggle.
The storyline is realistic and reflects the pessimism prevalent in contemporary times.
The storyline is realistic and reflects the pessimism prevalent in contemporary times. However, the author’s pragmatic approach is revealed in the unending perseverance of the characters to overcome their struggles and problems through hard work. The light at the end of the tunnel is constantly visible and the tone of the novel echoes optimism with tiny flecks of hope thrown in between broken relationships and  the stresses of unemployment. It reminds me of a quote, “There is nothing worse in the world than the end of hope.” The breaks or pauses (the Robert Roberts Show) used as a device to reflect and comment on the society and milieu represented in the novel like the inter-chapters employed by Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) present a glimpse into the stark reality of life: the recession and downsizing plaguing present day society. The end seems to turn hopeful only to announce further bleakness with news of further layoffs that indicates yet another fight, yet another struggle.

The theme of the novel is nonetheless one that has been used by various contemporary writers from Salman Rushdie to Stephen Gill. The theme centers on the burning topic of economic meltdown, globalization, unemployment, immigration, outsourcing of jobs and its after effects on the individual, the family and society. The work holds much potential and great market value as it addresses those contemporary issues that are close to the hearts and minds of the readers today. The language is simple, lucid and carries the nuances of the American life. In fact, the novel aptly and truly represents the social milieu to which it belongs. The contemporary life scenario makes the novel interesting, balanced and thought provoking. The variety of themes and the lucid language makes Lost in Seattle by Bruce Louis Dodson a ‘must read’ novel.

The author Bruce Louis Dodson is talented and insightful. His language and expressions reflect his grasp of the society he represents in the novel, while his delineation of characters reveal his genius in comprehending and portraying the depths of their dilemmas, yearnings, trials and tribulations.

Reviewer’s Bio: Ghanshyam Iyengar is a critic editor and review writer with CLRI.

Book Title: Lost In Seattle
Author: Bruce Louis Dodson
Publisher: Amazon.com, 2012.

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