Outskirts Press (2011)
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views (12/11)
“The Message” isn’t the easiest book to read because the pages are filled with sad endings. This fact doesn’t necessarily make it a bad book but it’s not something you’ll normally find yourself having the urge to read and it won’t be a title that pops into your head when a friend asks if you have any book recommendations. I’d even go so far as to say you don’t want to read this book unless you’re in a very happy state of mind because the content is almost a non-stop stream of depression.
In addition to the story being incredibly depressing, it’s listed as Fiction/Biographical, which seems to be an oxymoron to me. In my opinion, a story can be fiction that was inspired by true facts, it can be pure fiction, or it can be a non-fiction biography, with no way of being both fiction and non-fiction at the same time. To add more confusion to this muddled classification, the ending, without a doubt, is a fiction. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at that simple statement – the end is fiction.
While the end is fiction, a majority of the story does cover factual events with the 2006 Mother’s Day murder of Patricia Mery, known in the book as Aunt Pat. Two people in real life that had a hand in the murder are Anne and Carmela, while the two people in the story involved are Veronica and Carmen. Again, I’m left confused about what I’m reading. Biography or fiction?
Perhaps I’m wrong to focus so much on the classification when deciding on whether I like a story or not but I feel it’s important to know if I’m reading a non-fiction or fiction story, and the inability to figure out something as simple as a classification takes away from how I approach a book. If the majority of the story that doesn’t focus on the murder is non-fiction then I feel sorry for the main character (the author?) because he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. However, if the main character, named JR, is purely a work of fiction then I must admit that he’s not a very likable character because he is the eternal victim, constantly shooting himself in the foot with the choices he makes and then whining about how rotten his luck is. As an example, JR has an opportunity for romance but he ruins his chances and drives the girl away. Later, he meets another incredible woman, but he drives her away because he still has feelings for the first girl, who has incidentally let him know in no uncertain terms that they are absolutely over. I can’t sympathize with a character like that, and a story isn’t very interesting when the main character isn’t someone you can care about.
I would’ve loved to find out more about the Mother’s Day murder, which does seem to be the main focus of “The Message” at times, but the facts are lost in fiction that I found uninspiring and depressing.