Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (3/09)
Moffie writes with candor, using the voice of Aaron Abrams, a likeable 47-year-old guy, who shares his fears and phobias. Aaron talks about raising his three kids, Kirk, Shannon, and Burt. He reminisces about their vacations, games of “Jinx,” and about his classroom experiences, as an English teacher.
After some early morning errands, Aaron rushed home to tell his wife of a phone call with his agent, Jane, telling of the acceptance of a “great deal” on his latest book. He found his wife, and brother, Serge, in a compromised situation. Grabbing a few necessities and his dog, Churchill, Aaron threw a bucket of ice water with his wedding ring on the “coupled” couple and fled the scene.
In an attempt to work though his trauma Aaron sets on an adventurous journey. Along the way he recorded his interviews and the relationships encountered while doing research for his new book.
From Youngstown, Ohio, he followed interstate 80 to Pennsylvania then took another route into Gettysburg. He went on to Boston, Massachusetts, Roswell, New Mexico, then to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and finally ended his odyssey at Niagara Falls. The story is often narrated in clips of dialog between his agent Jane and her assistant, Elizabeth.
As in his other books, Moffie’s character development is strong. Aaron comes across as an optimistic cynic avoiding political involvement. He is envious of the solitude he perceives a truck driver enjoys. Aaron’s personality gives a kind of acceptable innocence to Moffie’s irreverence.
I enjoyed Jane his agent and Elizabeth her assistant and their philosophies on life and politics. Other memorable characters include: Pam Smyth, the state trooper, the truck driver who took out the orange barrel barricades, the yuppie wife with the out-of-control kids, and the campus coed guide at his alma mater.
I learned some little known facts about Gettysburg from tour guide Harry, Aaron’s former fraternity brother. I discovered I despised George Ballard the Boston politician. I enjoyed Aaron’s stop in New Mexico where he interviewed Bruce Tobias, director of Helen’s Heaven, a former hippie commune which had been converted to a work camp. Andrew Bellows, Aaron’s fraternal big brother in Cheyenne, Wyoming was a colorful character who had an epiphany and left the weapon’s industry to work on building a monument honoring Crazy Horse.
I particularly enjoyed Aaron’s cell phone conversations with his daughter, Shannon, and sons, Kirk, and Burt. They were the tool used to develop not only the personalities of his adult children, but also in the development of Aaron’s own character.
Moffie’s writing is funny, clever, imaginative, and perceptive. He gives flavor to his storyline by including music of the 70s, Aaron’s favorites. He includes the lyrics of these songs weaving them into the narrative in a natural way that adds a sense of nostalgia as well as a touch of Americana.
Mixing humor and satire Moffie demonstrates remarkable insight into the foibles of human nature. He has a writing style that is laid back and rambling. He includes graphic sex scenes and explicit language. His sharp wit was somewhat diminished for me because of the frequent reiteration of some of these themes.
The many details and glimpses into the publishing industry and the art of writing are hints that the book may contain a significant amount of autobiographical fiction. Even as I write this review I am wondering if I will be critiqued by the “professor” himself.
This is a book that will be enjoyed by contemporary readers who enjoy a mix of realism and nostalgia or a look back at the impact on society of growing up in the sixties and seventies. “No Mad” by Sam Moffie is a great story.