Book Review: Lucretia and the Kroons

Once again, Victor LaValle spins an intensely imaginative and vivid tale. I had read, thanks to a suggestion from Oprah (well, Oprah.com ☺), his novel Big Machine last year and while I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the characters, it was  like Lucretia and the Kroons, in that it is quite fantastical and strange but just really very good all at the same time.

Everyday eBook published this article describing Lucretia and the Kroons and I knew immediately I would be giving LaValle another spin! Even though this novella is classified as horror and young adult, knowing the premise behind the story wasn’t going to let those two categories steer me away.

It is a very quick little novella, at just over 100 pages, it took me less than a day to read. It is the story of Lucretia, or Loochie as she is endearingly called, trying to deal with the impending loss of her very very best friend Sunny. Sunny is dying of cancer and after having a disasterous birthday party with 3 other of Loochie’s “friends” she determines that she will save her ice cream cake for the day that Sunny can come and share it with her.

Her brother tells Loochie this bizarre and horrifying story of the Kroons that live in the apartment above them that settles in to the back of her consciousness. Coupled with that a few tokes of these weird little Chinese cigarettes that Sunny gives her and Loochie is off on a wild and fantastical trip all while being chased by The Kroons. While on this wild and crazy trip, Loochie discovers how to handle the great, great loss of her friend Sunny.

It does close with an abrupt end but otherwise Lucretia and the Kroons is a wonderful tiny tale of a young girl dealing with the loss of her one true and very best friend. Loochie’s handling of the grief of finding her friend so wasted away and dying on that day of her birthday celebration would last a year and then doctors would diagnose Loochie with bipolar disorder. Everyone dismissed Loochie’s fantastical story about the Kroons and Sunny, but she never doubted it was true. (It is also this ending that strikes a chord for those that read Wichita, as Lewis feels he has seen his brother Seth one more time but in such a manner that no one believes him.) I’m giving it 3 stars, it was a tender and touching story combined with some far out fantastical situations. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from Victor LaValle.

Review: Big Machine

So you know the reason I came across this book, I did an online Oprah survey to find out what my “next great read” should be…and this book was the result.  After reading the description there was no way this was my kind of book? Oprah, what are you doing to me? An ex-heroin addict on a mission to save the world? Really?

Then I read a better description/review on NPR and thought, huh, this may actually be something that I might read, it was that good of a review – it had many hallmarks that did make it a book that I would likely pick up and read… like a library, a group called The Unlikely Scholars, some kind of secret mission, etc. I thought, sure, let’s give this a try.

A woman named Rashida on Goodreads has given an excellent snyopsis of how I felt about this book, and you can read it here.

And I did like it, it was compulsively readable – I was tickled by this gathering of “Unlikely Scholars”, what an intriguing group of people, this weird work they did for the Library and I really enjoyed the characters. A lot. I loved hearing their tales of their crazy lives before being beckoned by the Dean to the Washburn Library.

All these “Unlikely Scholars” made some sort of promise, some sort of deal that the Dean was able to know about and this promise was what lured them to the Library conduct the Dean’s work and to save the Washburn Library. But what is the real meaning of this? Why was I not able to really understand what this was about? What is the deeper meaning in this book? Because I know there is one and I just.don’t.get.it.

Is this an alternative Christ? The Devil’s children? A new religion? Is it about that at all? It even had weird sewer people involved?? LaValle liberally tosses in this line, “Doubt is the Big Machine”. WHAT? And what does that have to do with the story or stories that are being told at that moment you inserted that line? Why did you just put that line there? And then there? And what the bleep do you mean Doubt is the big machine? So I’ve decided I’m not going to dwell, I’m just going to chalk this one up to a good read, liked it, really liked the journey with Ricky and Adele, but haven’t really figured it out. If you do, I’d be glad to hear what you think.

What I did thoroughly enjoy was discovering what their promises were, and they were mainly told for Ricky Rice and Adele Henry. I thoroughly enjoyed these characters and the other Unlikely Scholars, but was this enough to rate this anymore than 3 stars? I just did not get the deeper meaning. And I know there is one in there somewhere, I was just way too confused, or I just don’t read in to deep meanings in books.

Here’s that book again!

So you may remember a few posts back when I took the Oprah quiz as to what  I should read next and this book appeared…

Well, here it is again!, appearing in NPR’s “You Must Read” listing… http://www.npr.org/2011/06/09/133960271/big-machine-churns-out-a-twisting-collage-of-crime

When I first saw the description of the book after taking the quiz, I was scratching my head since this really didn’t seem to be something that would interest me in any way.  However, NPR has given this brief tidbit to mull over, “If you’re in search of a genre-bending, perspective-shattering read, look no farther than Victor LaValle’s crime thriller Big Machine. Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez says the kaleidoscopic novel deftly weaves crime with dynamics of race, class and religion in an explosion of utter originality.” Hmmmm….now reading further in to it’s fuller description from NPR (see link above) I actually DO see myself potentially reading this. A twisting collage of crime? Check. Race, class and religion? Check. Summoned to a library? Check. A quirky group named Unlikely Scholars? Well, hmmmm, sign me up!

I do have to say, however, that I’m growing a tad weary of this tag of “genre-bending” term though, but I won’t let it get in the way of a potentially good read.

So, it seems, that perhaps Oprah was right? Oh Oprah! ☺