Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Review: Sandman by Bob Drews

Sometimes a book sounds promising but completely misses the mark and Bob Drews' Sandman was one of these for me. Worse, it, and I'm not sure whether it was the character or the book as a whole or the time in which the novel was written (which really isn't much of an excuse), was misogynistic and homophobic. All in all, it was quite an unhappy reading experience for me.

Tom Phillips is a travel writer in his forties when he gets the news that he has Alzheimer's. As it would for most people, this diagnosis makes him examine and reassess his life and whether it is worth living with something this debilitating hanging over his head. His doctor suggests journaling so some of the novel is written as diary entries while other portions are third person narrative focused on Tom and all of the people in his life. The novel jumps from narrative focus to narrative focus, sometimes even within the same paragraph so the reader is not always clear whether they are reading about Tom or Bea or Helena or another character entirely. The writing is clunky and awkward when it's not downright uncomfortable. Tom likes to tell the reader whenever he's pissing over the railing, jerking off, having an orgasm after a lap dance, and more. He has a deep fascination with "pussy." None of these things add anything to the story or to the development of Tom's character (assuming he's not meant to be a gross dirtbag). But this description in the service of nothing narratively is not confined to just Tom's bodily functions and urges. The reader is treated to an almost daily recounting of Tom's meals, the sexual predilections of every character, and long philosophical conversations between Tom and characters who are only there to be repositories of his musings. The female characters are clearly written by a man, unbelievable and inauthentic in so many ways. Tom talks to himself throughout the book, a lot. The bad news is that he is, quite frankly, boring.

There is much here that had promise: the story of a man who doesn't want to have to rely on others and who is struggling mightily for meaning in a life that is suddenly not what he envisioned for his future. Unfortunately it didn't come close to fulfilling the promise and I can't recommend it.

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