My review of Colorado writer Bonnie Nadzam’s first novel Lamb is up on High Country News. This one will make you squirm: it’s about a relationship between a middle-aged man and a young girl. But it has impressed lots of folks, and won the prestigious Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Award from the Center for Fiction.
I have to say, 2011 was a great year for Colorado fiction, with Eleanor Brown’s bestseller The Weird Sisters, Bonnie Nadzam’s prizewinning novel, Joe Henry’s lovely, evocative Lime Creek, and Robert Garner McBrearty’s funny and warm story collection Let The Birds Drink In Peace. Watch for my review of the latter book in High Country News soon. But first, here’s a snippet from my review of Lamb:
275 pages, softcover: $15.95.
Other Press, 2011.
After his marriage dissolves over an affair with a coworker and his father dies, David Lamb drives to a parking lot near his Chicago home to think. “Nothing before him but the filthy street and bright signs announcing the limits of his world: Transmission Masters and Drive Time Financing and Drive-Thru Liquors. … If there was something beneath, something behind, it was hidden from him.” Then, a freckled, inappropriately dressed 11-year-old girl named Tommie walks up to him and says, “I’m supposed to ask you for a cigarette.”
Lamb obliges Tommie and asks, “Now what do I get in exchange?” And so begins Colorado writer Bonnie Nadzam’s crisp, startling and psychologically intense debut novel Lamb, which just won the prestigious Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. Lamb sees Tommie as someone fresh, vivid and full of potential, a relief from his burnt-out and busted-up life. Tommie laps up the attention, and agrees to accompany the older man to his cabin in the Rocky Mountains.
The parallels between Lamb and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita are evident. Both sets of characters have a similar age difference and respond to their troubles by hitting the road, moving from one hotel to another to avoid legal trouble. But Tommie is more innocent than Lolita, and although Nadzam includes several uncomfortable scenes in which boundaries are almost crossed, Lamb’s intentions toward the girl are not sexual.
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