Book Review: Wichita

Wichita, by Thad Ziolkowski, was chosen for the Opinionless Virtual Book Club meeting for August. Originally, it was chosen solely on its title, as Opinionless member Michelle threw it out there saying she lived for a short period of time in Wichita and was very interested in reading the book. And then we received the news that Thad Ziolkowski would join us online for our August meeting, so Wichita was confirmed!

We often say here at the Literary Hoarders, that the Opinionless club has consistently challenged us in reading books we normally would not have considered, and Wichita was no exception. And, as we again often say, we do appreciate the challenge because it often provides a reading gem that might have been missed if we had stuck to an earlier impression. Wichita is not something I would consider a favourite or anything, but I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t enjoy it at all. There’s just something that makes you feel better about your family and its quirks and quarks when you find another family that is way off the rails, such as the one Wichita presents to us in the Chopiks. There are many moments throughout this story too that made it something I was glad to have had the opportunity to read.

Also, just after this book club meeting, Opinionless.com ran an interview for its author series with Thad, and you can read that here. The interview does touch upon some of what was discussed during our Skype meeting, but I don’t think it captured what a real pleasure it was to speak with Thad. And to find out that so many of the characters are based on his own family members made the book all that more interesting. Speaking with Thad on that Tuesday night added a great dimension to this book. The opening chapter and the final 3-4 chapters truly make this book a good one to pick up. You can really feel the deep feelings and emotions for Seth that Lewis has, despite the chaos and conflict that follows him wherever he goes. And to learn that Seth is very much based on Thad’s real brother made you feel that much more closer to Lewis and understand that even though Seth caused so much pain, he was Lewis’ only brother and he truly loved him.

Again, I do have to say the final chapters of this book really make the story and Wichita has one of the better endings I’ve read in a novel in quite some time. Given the added benefit of speaking with Thad too, and discovering how much of this novel is autobiographical, it makes it easier to move beyond the parts of the story that dragged, or were repetitive in nature. I mean, there is only so much drug-induced craziness I cared to read about and it was clearly understood that Seth is an unbalanced person, I just felt I didn’t need to read several different versions of it. Therefore, I’m giving this one a 3 star rating.  The ending really makes it, it really does.

If you would like additional opinions on the novel, please find Aaron’s (well written)review here and Wichita was featured in the New York Times Sunday Review, which you can read here.

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