Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D'Agostino

Guess what guys? I FINISHED A BOOK!!! Yes this is a big deal for me. It's the first novel that I've finished since March. I had planned for this to be the year that I read 100 books finally, but life has other plans and that's fine. I'll go with what life says has to happen. And I can't really be mad at life when it gives me books like The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac. It was really just what I've needed this last month.

I originally heard about this novel from Nancy, the Bookfool. And I love Nancy so much and some times she can just point me to a book that I just know I'll enjoy and this was one of those cases. Though I have to say that the opening line of the novel had me ready to just close the book and be done with it. But I'm glad I stuck with it. The book opens with it's narrator, Calvin, a guy in his mid-twenties, informing us "I work with retards." I'm sensitive to things like this. I currently work with people with mental illness. For seven years prior to that, I worked with people with physical disabilities and people with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism and aspergers. To call them "retards" is a huge trigger to me to say the least.

What I quickly learned, though, is that this novel's focus is on the evolution of Calvin, a young guy who is disillusioned by his current place in the world, fairly immature, and jaded by his life and his family. Calvin does in fact work with people with developmental disabilities. He works specifically with a young boy named Arham who has autism who just stole my heart, and he works really well with him. When he's not at work, he's at home with a family that's a cast of characters of their own.

Calvin's father has cancer and walks around with a gun in his bathrobe stuck in a permanent depression and existential crisis, his younger brother is a narcissist focused on his looks and his body and how he can look good by doing good things, and his sister is probably the most normal in the family but manages to get pregnant as a young teen and sadly has to deal with that. Calvin's mother tries her best to keep her sanity throughout all of this while trying to keep their house, but it's a rare occasion when she's able to keep it together.

I really liked this one. I really did. It surprised me. This book could have been just another "mid twenties existential crisis novel filled with pop culture references," but it wasn't. There's not a whole lot of wry humor, though it's humorous enough if you're one for dark humor, there are no pop culture references just for "coolness' sake", there are no easy answers with a happy ending where graduation caps are thrown into the air.

D'Agostino gets it I think. I could definitely relate to Cal to an extent with my own experiences in my mid twenties...shoot, I can relate to him now! Overall, just a really good read and I can't wait to see what else D'agostino has in store for us in the future.


DesLily said...

wow with a family like that he didn't need to go to work! lol.. glad you are feeling up to reading again. I no longer care if I read a lot of books as long as I read often.. one a month or one a week as long as they are enjoyable! so... don't forget to email me your (and Matts) new address! and will the phone stay the same???

Andi said...

I've had my eye on this one for a while. I'm glad you enjoyed it and it was THE book after a reading dry spell. :)

Bookfool said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, Chris! I thought it was such fun -- darkly humorous, as you said, but lots of love in that wacky, dysfunctional family.

I felt *exactly* the same about that opening line. I almost set it back down. But, I decided to keep reading for a bit and it totally sucked me in. What I think I loved most is that there are no easy answers for anyone in Sleepy Hollow. It's so very real.

Anyway, glad it worked for you!!! And, thanks for the shout-out. :)

Kailana said...

That's great that you finished a book, Chris. I have heard good things about this one!

Debi said...

This is the first time I've heard of this one...and damn you, it sounds good enough to add to the wish list.