I heard absolutely nothing about this book until Ti came along and did her thing...she sold me. When Ti loves a book, it is kinda hard to ignore her. So, as usual, I checked to see if my library had the audio (the only way I will EVER get to a book) and I struck gold. So what is this little charming story about?
Synopsis: At the opening of the book, we learn that Oppen Porter, the story's narrator, has had some kind of terrible accident, is in the hospital, and expects that the end is near. So he is recording his life's story and his words of wisdom on tape to his unborn child.
Oppen used to live a simple life, on the farm with his father. Every day, he rode his bicycle into town to look for work while his father stayed home, writing a never-ending letter to the local editor. When Oppen's father unexpectedly dies, Oppen buries him in the backyard according to his wishes. The authorities immediately exhume dad's body and bury him to code, and send Oppen off to live with his Aunt in Panorama City.
It becomes quickly apparent that Oppen is not a usual young man. He is not able to drive. He is illiterate. He deems himself a "thinker" but is not particularly adept at doing so quickly (he calls himself a "slow absorber"). He is insightful and brutally honest, yet gullible to those that might try to take advantage of his good nature. In Panorama City, he decides it is time to become "a man of the world", and throws himself into any adventure that presents itself...a job at a fast food restaurant, a friendship with a sketchy "entrepreneur" that he meets on the bus, discovering God at a local Christian fellowship, or smoking pot with a neighbor. It is a journey that lasts 40 days and 40 nights, after which the reader will view life with a new perspective.
My thoughts: Ti was right, this book was utterly charming. She compared the character of Oppen to Forrest Gump, which was spot on. The presence of Oppen takes an ordinary story and makes it special and precious, and it was impossible not to fall in love with him.
Oppen shares with his unborn son many pearls of wisdom that he has learned over the years, and often they were so simple but so true. Because I was listening to the audio, I couldn't write them down, but I loved each and every one of them. I would do well to follow his advice in my life. At its heart, this book is hilarious...I laughed the whole way through. But I did have moments when I found myself getting upset. Even if Oppen thinks everyone is a friend, to the reader we know that he is being bullied and taunted. In his innocence and his childish determination though, Oppen always seems to rebound.
A few words about the audio production: Our narrator and voice of Oppen was Paul Michael Garcia, a new name for me. Not just anyone could have pulled off the performance of Oppen, but Garcia did it with grace.
Listening length: 8 hours and 6 minutes (304 pages)
4.5 out of 5 stars