Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Mirth Defects by Clint Forgy is one of those books that reminds me of Forrest Gump's famous box of chocolates: "You never know what you're gonna get."
Hysterically rich and with a vivid voice, Forgy writes a story of JD Ferguson, a young boy growing up in middle America in the early 70's, born in a small town in Iowa.Forgy begins his novel with JD's birth. He arrives with the clarity and sarcastic wit of an old soul, entering this world as if he's ready for action, and indeed he is. This is the story of JD's life and how his world evolves; the highs and lows, the rites of passage that bring him to manhood.
This is no boring accounting. It's fun, lush and complex, laced with humor, and filled with soft memories of riding bikes up and down a street in the hazy twilight. JD has it all. The agony of a boy's kindergarten crush, first kisses and the tender passion of young love. The story is rich, as real life as it can get, astoundingly insightful and side-splittingly funny.
Forgy is a brilliant author with the rare skill of growing JD's voice from boy to man. His delightful sense of humor and flair for dangerous pranks left me breathlessly reading, wondering how JD and his cohorts would escape unscathed. The cast of characters includes JD's younger brother Bob, his best friend Gasser, and the lovely Lana.
Roadapple Ridge is a town of possessed of fodder, ripe for Forgy's pen. JD and his cohorts leap from scrape to scrape, with JD's sharp mind constantly outsmarting the locals. At times, it reads like those old Keystone Cops silent movies. The only sounds were my chuckles. It's a special book that makes you laugh, even better when it makes your eyes sting, and Mirth Defects has the distinct honor of doing both.
Forgy is a wonderful writer, stepping forward to give a voice to the twilight of the twentieth century. Dinner was eaten with your parents, you rode your bike until the stars were out, and you went steady instead of hooking up. Despite his rough and tumble ways, JD has a sweetness. While he may court trouble, he knows when to do the right thing. Better than that, he knows when to say it. He tells his girlfriend, "If you think you're ten foot tall then you are," letting us know he has become a man. When his grandfather dies unexpectedly, JD says, "I'm trying to hear him breathe one more time." That line undid me, voicing true grief in a way that says it all.
Near the end, JD laments,"You can't always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need." Mirth Defects manages to do both, giving the reader everything they want as well as what they need.
Carole P. Roman