The Sidewalk Smokers Club
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (2/08)
An eclectic, eccentric group of mostly underachievers finds themselves bonding with each other while they are banished, by smoking laws, to smoking outside on the sidewalk. There are times in the story where it seems like the right to smoke is more important to this group than their actual desire to smoke. They first begin to congregate outside of one restaurant in particular. The group savors the times when restaurants actually allow them to smoke inside.
On their own, they haven’t accomplished much. There is an attractive lesbian, who still seems like she hasn’t fully decided. One couple is struggling to keep up with living the American dream. A beautiful woman who modeled nude and pretends to regret it, finds herself the object of many fantasies, by both men and women. One man keeps himself underemployed. Another, who seems to be totally unemployed, calls himself a “Bum Philosopher.” This was a new term to me. He describes bum philosophy as: “The things that are known by all, but must be said simply because the mundane truths beg repeating to each new generation.” He and some of the others unite to create more bum philosophies. These ideas were very entertaining.
As the group bonds over the right to smoke issue, they also take on other issues that individuals in the group are facing. They seem to mainly do this to empower themselves. As a united front, they are getting attention. Some relationships unite, and some divide in this story. As the Sidewalk Smokers Club fight for their causes, they also find their strengths.
Stephen Siciliano has written an incredibly entertaining story. He brings each character to life and whether you like them or not, you take notice and usually laugh. Making the characters seem so real, you feel more like a fly on the wall watching the scenes play themselves out, rather than just being a reader. The imperfections of the characters are what make them seem so real. Most of their actions are based on selfish, self-serving purposes. They might think that they are acting for the group, but in many cases, the expected result is for themselves. “The Sidewalk Smoker’s Club” is an intelligently written gem of a novel, even to an unsympathetic non-smoker like my self.