Friday, July 13, 2012

Beginner's Luck, by Laura Pedersen

Hallie's got a good head for numbers.  She likes to use the skill for making money at race tracks and playing poker games.  What she doesn't have much interest in is school, and her frequent absences get her into trouble.  But when faced with an ultimatum to shape up or face domestic lockdown, she chooses a third option and leaves home.  Her initial plan (to win big on the horses and flee to Las Vegas) doesn't pan out, so she ends up taking a groundskeeper job for an eccentric family, the Stocktons.  What unfolds in the next year is a series of life lessons that provide Hallie with the perspective that has been missing in her life so far.

Pederson has a knack for creating interesting and memorable characters (the primate who mixes his own drinks is particularly bizarre).  They never stop surprising you.  The story, however suffers from literary ADHD.  Things happen and then new things happen, but often just completely out of the blue.  And key plot lines, like Hallie's gambling or her desire to be emancipated from her parents just get dropped and forgotten about in favor of something shinier. The result is a series of funny and insightful vignettes.  In their accumulation, these are probably supposed to relay a deeper meaning, but it just seems like rambling that Pederson arbitrarily decides at some point to end.

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