October 21, 2007


Lottery by Patricia Wood
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 10/16/07
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!!)

You all know that feeling, right? The feeling you get when that little voice whispers ever so quietly, "Oh my, this is going to be a wonderful book." You know it before you even finish the first chapter. You know it as you find yourself thinking of the characters throughout your busy day. You know it when you start composing a fan letter in your head to the author and decide (even before you're halfway through the book!) you simply must to buy several copies for Christmas gifts. You know it when you ignore all other responsibilities and spend the day (and much of the night) curled up on the couch, reading non-stop for hours. Then you stop. You put the book aside with 50 pages still unread. You want to savor those final chapters. You don't want to leave the characters you've come to love. Finally, you resume reading, allowing no interruptions to break the spell. And then you're finished. And you feel sad and lost, knowing that even though you'll read it again, you'll never again experience that magic as you just did for the first time. And yet, you're feeling excited, eager to return to work so you can begin hand selling it to all your favorite customers (alright, maybe that only happens to some of us); eager to sit down and write a review so all your blog-mates can share in the experience. Patricia Wood's Lottery is one of those rare books.

I'm not a gambler. I don't care to ever go to Vegas unless someone is willing to put me up in The Bellagio or Venetian. And, if I were to go, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't spend a single cent on a game of craps, blackjack, poker or even a slot machine. Life is a big enough gamble without adding to the losses. However, many years ago (oh, I was so young and foolish!) I decided to buy a lottery ticket. It was one of those scratch-off types. (You know, so I wouldn't have to obsess about which numbers to choose.) And get this! I won! Yes, I'm a lottery winner!! Of course it was only a $2 win, but it was a win, nonetheless. And that was the very last time I ever played. Quit while you're ahead, that's my motto.

Wood's debut novel shows us that happiness can be -- and perhaps must be -- found in the smallest of pleasures. All anyone really needs is a handful of loyal friends, a job that makes you happy, and love. Every week, Perry L. Crandall (the L is for Lucky, according to his Gram) buys five Lotto tickets at the Marina Handy Mart. He and Gram enjoy talking about what they'd do if they ever won the lottery. To others, their dreams may not seem like much, yet they lead happy (but simple) lives and don't need much in the way of fancy cars, jewelry or frivolities. Well, as luck would have it, Perry wins the Washington State Lottery. Oh, boy, does he win! Twelve million dollars! Life as he knows it suddenly becomes much more complicated. Yet, Perry can take care of himself. After all, he's thirty-two years old. He's not stupid and he's certainly not retarded. He's quick to correct anyone who claims he is, pointing out that one has to have an IQ of less than 75 to be retarded and his IQ is 76. Definitely not retarded. Gram says he's just slow.

There are times I forget I am slow. When I am riding my bike to Holstead's. When I scrub teak on the deck of a sailboat with Keith. When Gary lets me fill out paperwork in the office. When I am by myself. Without other people. They are the ones who are fast. They talk fast and think faster.

"Turning themselves into butter!" Gram thinks regular people are too speedy. "Around and around and around they turn. Watch, Perry!"

Gram is right. I see them on the bus as I look through the window. Driving, talking on their cell phones, eating a breakfast sandwich, all at the same time. I see them at the marina, clicking into tiny computers that they carry around. Gram calls them pets.

"Goddamn metallic pets! Look, Perry! Like they're attached to the end of their fingers." Then she will cackle and do her witch laugh.

There are times I am glad I am slow. I see things. I hear things. And there are times I don't think about it at all.

Lottery is one of those books that may have slipped under my radar had it not been for Bookfool's lovely review over at Estella's Revenge. As you all know, Rod & I recently spent two weeks cruising the San Juan Islands on my dad and step mom's boat, so I was especially interested in the novel when I learned it takes place in the Pacific Northwest (specifically, Everett, Washington). I grew even more excited when I discovered the author lives aboard her 48' ketch with her husband in Hawaii. It's quite obvious that she knows her stuff, as all the nautical references rang true even to this novice. While I certainly don't know half as much as my dad or husband when it comes to boating (although, I do now know the purpose and importance of a bilge pump!), I've learned quite a bit in recent years. One can't help but learn some nautical terminology when one lives with someone who rereads Chapman's every single year!

But it wasn't simply the locale and boat life that drew me into the narrative. Newcomer though she is, Wood writes likes a seasoned author. The pacing is flawlessly even. The dialogue rings true. All but one or two of the characters are fleshed out and believable. (I would have liked to have seen a couple of these minor characters a little less one-dimensional, but this truly is a minor quibble.) I loved the humor, as well as the tender moments. This is one of the many passages that made me laugh:

Keith is older and bigger than me. I do not call him fat because that would not be nice. He cannot help being older. I can always tell how old people are by the songs they like. For example, Gary and Keith like the Beatles, so they are both older than me. Gram likes songs you never hear anymore, like "Hungry for Love" by Patsy Cline and "Always" by somebody else who is dead. If the songs you like are all by dead people, then you are really old."


Gram can blow smoke out the side of her mouth and through her nose. She limits herself. "Only two menthol cigarettes a day. Count 'em. One. Two."

She will hold them up in front of me.

Sometimes, Gram loses count.

I finished the book a few days ago (read it in less than 24 hours) and already I miss Perry. He joins my list of favorite characters, keeping company with Owen (A Prayer for Owen Meany), Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird), Swede (Peace Like a River), and Leisel and Rudy (The Book Thief). I loved his general outlook on life. He may lead a simple life, but it's rich, full of purpose and meaning. I loved his naiveté and untarnished view of the world. In his Forrest Gump-like manner, he tells it like it is with pure, unadulterated honesty. I believe there's a lot to learn from this, as well as from the homespun wisdom bestowed upon him by his Gram.

I'm not sure what I'd do if I were to ever win $12 million dollars, but I'm fairly certain that the first thing on my list would be to buy a house on an island somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (with a boat, of course!). I'd love to continue working in a bookstore, but maybe just part-time. There just aren't enough hours in the day to read as often as I'd like.

Maybe it wouldn't hurt to buy just one lottery ticket...

One final note... I sure hope living aboard a boat continues to be conducive to writing, as I can hardly wait for Patricia Wood to publish another novel. And, I hope this isn't the last we see of Perry!

Update: Go here to see what made me smile this morning!


  1. Perry has stuck with me ever since I closed Lottery. I felt completely satisfied with the ending, but he's just such a wonderful character that I still hear echoes of his thoughts in my head. That is so cool (inside joke, there). :)

    I'm glad you loved Lottery as much as I did!

  2. Anonymous3:03 AM

    I have this one on hold at the library - in fact it should be in this week. I can't wait to read it! Great review.

  3. There weren't many reviews for it when I put it on my list, so I'm so happy to see that you loved it, too!

  4. Anonymous7:01 AM

    You wrote a wonderful review of this book, Les. It just makes the reader want to jump up and run out and find this book. I'll be looking for it at the library (since I have my new "I'm trying not to buy books" resolve).

  5. Anonymous7:09 AM

    Ooh you mentioned Owen, Rudy and Scout - some of my favorite characters. I'm definitely adding this book to my TBR list!

  6. You guys ROCK!
    It's so gratifying to have readers "get" the book. I believe it is uncomfortable for some people to truly listen to those with mental challenges even in fiction - finding the voice "flat" or "wearying" -- I am thrilled so many readers are finding Perry endearing - as Perry would say:
    Some people like me and some people don't--
    that's okay.

  7. Anonymous10:30 AM

    What a beautiful review! I too hold off on reading the last few chapters of my favorite books, to prolong the reading experience (I remember very clearly doing this with The Kite Runner). I love the fact that you mention Owen from A Prayer for Owen Meany (one of my favorite books) and Swede from Peace Like a River (although I enjoyed Swede's character, that was about all I liked about that novel)!

  8. Great review, Lesley. I loved this one too. It's going to end up in my top ten for the year easily. I loved Perry's grandma.

  9. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Dear Lesley;

    Oh, this book sounds so wonderful and your review is just beautifully composed. I read a book called, "Carry Me Home" that featured a character much like Perry and I just loved him. This is a definite must read for me.

    Thanks, Lesley;
    Love; Gayla

  10. One of the best things about blogging (besides finding similarities to oneself when one thought one was all alone) is discovering a book that would have "slipped under your radar." I still want to read The Book Thief, which both my sister-in-law and mother have read before me, from your recommendation. I am SO behind!

  11. Anonymous2:39 PM

    I just loved everything about "Peace Like a River." One of my top books of all time. But then if we all loved everything the same there would be no need for versatile authors.


  12. This was a fantastic read. As a teacher, in my day job, I have had a few "Perry's" for students. I "felt" this character, I felt like I was holding his hand for I have had students just like him. When I finished the book late last night I wanted to cry for joy - I felt like all my students were going to be "lucky" too! This book was a celebration, a party, and a graduation all in one! Thanks for sharing - Patricia Wood rocks!!

  13. Yowza - first Bookfool got it to my TBR list, now you're making me move it up to the read soon category!

  14. I did see this review from Bookfool!! It is a book I probably would never picke up either, except for the wonderful reviews I'm reading from the blogging world. Looks like I should check this one out!!

  15. Nancy - Perry certainly is a memorable character. I was satisfied with the ending, too, but hope we see more of Perry in the future. If not, I'll just have to give the book a second reading. Thanks again for steering me in the direction of yet another great read!

    Lynne - I think you'll enjoy this quite well. As slow as I've been to respond to comments, perhaps you've already read it!

    Joy - I don't recall seeing a review for this one on your blog. Did I miss it???

    Kay - Aw, thanks. It's always easy and fun to write a decent review when the book is such a winner. I have a feeling you'll really enjoy this one. Great characters. Oh, and I know you'll love the setting.

    Iliana - Yes. This is a definite must read!!

    Patricia - So nice of you to comment on my blog! I continue to think of the wonderful characters, setting and storyline. I'll have to read this again very soon. Thanks for writing such a marvelous story. I'll be one of the very first to get a copy of your next book, you can be sure of that!

    Stephanie - Well, it was a beautiful book, so the review was very easy to write.

    Funny, I kind of felt the same way about Peace Like a River and Swede, as you did. She was the best part of the book, wasn't she?

    KookieJar - Yep, this is hitting the favorite list of the year for me! Glad to hear so many positive comments from those who have read this gem.

    Gayla - Yay! So nice to see you here!! Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to look for Carry Me Home. Thanks for visiting my blog. :) Oh, and about Peace Like A River... I really enjoyed it for the most part, but thought the ending was a bit of a letdown.

    Bellezza - Well, add Lottery to your list. You won't be disappointed. It's quite a page-turner and I'd be surprised if you couldn't fit it in over a weekend.

  16. Inside A Book - What a beautiful comment. Thank you for stopping by my blog and sharing your experience with students like Perry. I suspect your students are lucky, as they have you for a teacher.

    And yes, Patricia Wood ROCKS! :)

    SuziQ - You will love this book! I just know you will. Can't wait to read your review. :)

    Stephanie - Yes, you must. It's a great read with wonderful characters, setting, etc. I just can't say enough about how great this book it.

  17. Well - you know my tastes well enough by now - guess I really need to read it and soon :-)

  18. This book sounds like a must-read. On the list it goes. Thanks for your review.

  19. Framed - It is! It is! I'm getting ready to put it on our staff recommendation display at work. I can hardly wait for the author to write another!

  20. No, you didn't miss it on my blog; I haven't read it yet. I saw it on B&N and put it on my TBR list (no reviews were out at that time), then read Bookfool's review and now you rave about it too. Sorry for the confusion, but glad you loved it. :)

  21. Anonymous4:53 AM

    I have all those in my library and I'm glad you loved Lottery as much as I did!I'm definitely adding this book to my TBR list! I think you are fond of books. I'm glad to know that...

  22. I happened across your blog from Lynne's link. I loved this book also. Your review is excellent. I also got a comment from the author. I'll be checking back.

  23. VioletLady - I'm glad you enjoyed the review. I'm getting ready to post an interview with Pat Wood. Hope you stop by again to read it.

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  24. Anonymous3:00 PM

    I just finished Lottery. What a good book! It was just what I needed these past two days. Finished it at 1:30 this morning! The voice of Perry reminded me of Forrest Gump, but the story was so much better. I went back and read your review and then read your interview with Woods. You do such a good job! I'm really impressed.


  25. I knew this was your kind of book, Mom! Glad you enjoyed it.


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