Perry L. Crandall would like you to know that he is not retarded. Retarded would be 75 on an IQ test, and he is 76. Besides, Perry takes care not only of himself, but also of his Gran, a crusty, no-nonsense woman who loves him for who he is and lets him shine his light through his own accomplishments. (She tells him the L in his name stands for Lucky.)
Perry describes his life in simple and succinct sentences that manage to be full of wonder and surprise. As he speaks, we see all too clearly the many ways in which his nuclear family has failed him, but Perry never sees it that way. His glass is always half full. Shoot, his glass is three-quarters full–it only looks half-full to those of us too blind to see things the Perry Crandall way. And it’s this innocence and optimism that makes his family betrayals all the more heartbreaking to the reader. We want to crawl into the book and protect Perry from the vultures, especially when he faces the biggest tragedy of his life.
But Perry insists he doesn’t need protecting, and he proceeds to prove it us and to the three remaining people who care the most about him: Gary, the owner of Holsted’s Marine Supply who has employed Perry since he was sixteen years old; Keith, Perry’s heavy, flatulent, potty-mouthed co-worker; and Cherry a young, tattooed and pierced cashier at the local Marina Handy Mart.
When Perry wins the Washington state lottery we learn just who his real friends (and real family) are. His mostly estranged cousin-brothers come knocking, strangers arrive on his doorstep…and we hope–oh how we hope–that Perry can learn to distinguish the friends from the leeches.
There is so much to love about this big-hearted first novel. The characters are rich and real and alive. Perry’s voice is fresh, authentic, consistent, and homespun-philosopher-wise…and then, there’s the ending. Oh, the ending! The ending is so unexpectedly perfect and poignant and satisfying. I keep trying not to write, “Keep a box of tissues handy,” but, well, keep a box of tissues handy. You’ll need them. But–to use another cliche–you’ll be smiling through your tears.