Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review-Ugly To Start With

By John Michael Cummings
168 Pages

Goodreads description:
Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away. Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.
Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways.
My Thoughts:
This collection of short stories are told from main character Jason's point of view. Jason is growing up in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. A quaint, historical tourist town divided between locals and rangers. Jason comes from a poor family whose house is sandwiched between restored, historical homes and tourist shops. To say that Jason is ashamed of his dilapidated, run down house is an understatement. The reader gets glimpses of Jason's life and relationships with each short story. Jason's father is an angry racist who tells Jason that he was his mother's idea and a mistake. His mother is civil to her family and town folk but bullied by her husband. Their relationship is complicated and dysfunctional, as is their family. We are witnesses to Jason's growth and journey while being introduced to a variety of characters that make up his family, neighbors and towns people. Most stories had me longing for more while a couple were disturbing. All the stories were raw, gritty and honest. I didn't always like Jason but I felt connected and I cared. It's hard not to get emotionally invested in Jason and his life. Jason is a character I won't soon forget or stop cheering for.
Cummings uses language and descriptions beautifully. There are times that I smelled the smoke and felt the floors creak. The short story approach was different but in a way that I liked. I would like to read more from Cummings and his life experiences in West Virginia. 
A big thanks to Cumming for sending me a copy of his book to read and review. I will be donating this book to my local public library.

About the Author:
John Michael Cummings (born 1963 in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) is an American short story writer and novelist. His short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007. Cummings lives in Orlando, Florida, with his cat Sentry. * * *

No comments:

Post a Comment