Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke

Somehow Brock Clarke has flown under my radar until now. It's hard to believe that I have missed a title as delicious as An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, but I did. However, thanks to a book giveaway by Algonquin Press, I ended up with a copy of Clark's next novel, The Happiest People in the World. That this refers to Danes, and that we'd just had a long discussion with a Danish friend about the virtues of her country, I was eager to read the book.

Remember back in 2005, when a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons which depicted the prophet Muhammad, and the resulting objection caused protests, riots, and a boycott of Danish goods in some countries? I think there were even death threats made against the artist, but haven't looked that up to verify.  Clarke has loosely based this novel around those events. In this case, a somewhat hapless Skagen newspaper artist creates a response cartoon, which results in his home and the newspaper office being firebombed. The end result is that he goes into hiding, ending up in upstate New York (actually Boonville, which actually bills itself as the snow mobile capitol of the world, though not in this book -- the things you learn about upstate NY when you are a reader.) There, he becomes the guidance counselor at the local school, which should have worked out well, except a) the town actually has a recruiting presence for the CIA, b) a hit man is on his way to find him, and c) everyone in the books is a bit off-kilter in how they view life. Oh, and there's a moose head in it. With a camera. And a microphone that doesn't work. Brilliant

This really was a well written, attention getting book, very funny in some parts, but I read it with the feeling of a train going downhill, without brakes. From the beginning of the book, you know true disaster is coming. It's just a matter of who will escape and how they'll survive after. But I read on, waiting for the train wreck, amazed at all that gathered and scattered as it came to the inevitable crash.
I will look for more by this author. Thank you Algonquin Press for sending this book my way. To date, I've never read a publication from Algonquin which didn't get me thinking, and tickle some aspect of my reader fancy. This was no exception.

Tags: algonquingiveaway, at-least-the-writing-was-good, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, funny, good-but-made-me-sad, made-me-look-something-up, read, set-in-my-stomping-grounds, thought-provoking, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

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