SUMAC by Charles Neal

Book Reviews
SUMAC by Charles Neal
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Apr 4, 2007, 04:35

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SUMAC by Charles Neal; Flame Grape Press, 1995

Sumac draws heavily upon the heart of white trash America. The story line is as follows: an overweight security guard tries to support his overweight family. Neal, I assume, attempts to portray well-rounded (no pun intended) characters. Sadly he seems to fall short by landing on such clichés as a lazy housewife given to compulsive behavior; ungrateful, ugly, and spoiled kids, and a general stupidity that seems to permeate the air. Because his characters are so one-dimensional, the dialogue and narrative seem completely forced. This leaves Neal's study of the human condition flawed and cynical.

Neal's characters never seem to evolve or discover anything about themselves. Their stereotypical voices at best only breach the subjects that seem to bother them. Moreover, they are utterly incapable of learning or moving on. Thus the claustrophobia of a story going nowhere quickly descends upon Sumac

Neal should, however, be commended for his perseverance. I certainly couldn't write a three hundred page book filled with characters so unlikable. If he wanted to write a difficult book, he succeeded. If he wanted me to hate a book like no book since Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, he succeeded.

-Tad Hendrickson

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