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The book then skips ahead ten years to pick up on the ramifications of LuAnn's decision. I'm going to do my best to make the rest of this as spoiler free as I can, but the fact remains that it's been 14 years since the publication of this book, so I'm not promising anything.
The upside for me is that, despite several moments of having to put the book down in order to roll my eyes at the cornball nature of a sentence, I did continue to pick it back up. That could be because I was just thrilled to be reading something that wasn't mentally taxing or it could be because I was legitimately caught up in the suspense. I would like to give the benefit of the doubt and say that it was the latter.
There is something there that kept the pages turning and there were some legitimate surprises that made me sit back and say "huh Baldacci, nicely played". The idea itself is intriguing as well, I mean, who hasn't dreamt of their post-lottery-winning life, especially in the current economic situation? It's incredibly easy to relate to the decision to say yes to someone who offers you a completely new, debt-free life.
Here's the downside: If I'm being completely honest, and remember this is coming from someone who has never been published, so certainly take it with even less than a grain of salt, there are moments when the writing is terrible. Usually, as I read, the scenario starts to play itself out in my mind and a cinematic quality begins to take shape as the faces and reactions of characters form. It all becomes a mental motion picture.
I mean that's why we all read, correct? And also why so many people are loathe to accept adaptations? Well here, the only thing that formed was a Youtube playback of an over-acted high school play. He stroked his thin, dark mustache. It too was made of synthetic fiber ventilated on a lace foundation and attached to his skin with spirit gum.
His nose had been changed considerably as well: a putty base highlighted and shadowed, to make his noses actual delicate and straight appearance bulky and slightly crooked. The small mole resting next to the altered bridge of his nose was also fake: a concoction of gelatin and alfalfa seeds mixed in hot water. His straight teeth were covered withacrylic caps to give them an uneven and unhealthy appearance.
All of these illusions would be remembered by even the most casual observer.
Thus when they were removed, he, in essence, disappeared. What more could someone wholeheartedly engaged in illegal activities want? Soon, if things went according to plan, it would all begin again. Each time was a little different, but that was the exciting part: the not knowing. He checked his watch again. Yes, very soon. He expected to have an extremely productive meeting with her; more to the point, a mutually beneficial meeting.
He only had one question to ask LuAnn Tyler, one simple question that carried the potential for very complex repercussions. Based upon his experience, he was reasonably certain of her answer, but one just never knew.
He dearly hoped, for her sake, that she would give the right one. For there was only one right answer. If she said no? Well, the baby would never have the opportunity to know its mother, because the baby would be an orphan.
He smacked the desktop with the palm of his hand. She would say yes. All the others had. Jackson shook his head vigorously as he thought it through.
He would make her see, convince her of the inescapable logic of joining with him.
How it would change everything for her. More than she could ever imagine. More than she could ever hope for. How could she say no? It was an offer that simply no one could refuse. Ifshe came. Jackson rubbed his cheek with the back of his hand, took a long, slow drag on the cigarette, and stared absently at a nail pop in the wall.
But, truth be known, how could she not come? Suddenly the road curved north and then just as abruptly dipped to the east. Over a slight rise the view yielded still more trees, some dying, bent into what seemed painful shapes by wind, disease, and weather; but the majority were ramrod straight, with thickening girths and soaring, leafy branches.
On the left side of the road, the more diligent eye could discern a half circle of open space consisting of mud interspersed with patches of new spring grass. Also nestled with nature into this clearing were rusted engine blocks, piles of trash, a small mountain of bone-dry beer cans, discarded furniture, and a litany of other debris that served as visual art objects when covered with snow, and as home to snakes and other creatures when the mercury made its way north.
Smack in themiddle of that semicircular island rested a short, squat mobile trailer atop a crumbling cinder block foundation. Seemingly its only touch with the rest of the world were the electrical and telephone lines that ran down from the thick, leaning poles along the road and collided with one side of the trailer.
The trailer was a decided eyesore in the middle of nowhere. Its occupants would have agreed with that description: The middle of nowhere was aptly applied to themselves as well.
Inside the trailer, LuAnn Tyler looked at herself in the small mirror perched atop the leaning chest of drawers. She held her face at an unusual angle, not only because the battered piece of furniture listed to one side with a broken leg, but also because the mirror was shattered. Meandering lines grew outward on the surface of the glass like the slender branches of a sapling such that if LuAnn had looked head-on into the mirror she would have seen not one but three faces in the reflection. LuAnn didnt smile as she studied herself; she could never really remember smiling at her appearance.
Her looks were her only assetthat had been beaten into her head ever since she could rememberalthough she could have used some dental work. Growing up on unfluoridated well water and never stepping foot inside a dentists office had contributed to that situation. No smarts, of course, her father had said over and over. No smarts, or no opportunity to use them?
She had never broached the subject with Benny Tyler, dead now these past five years. Her mother, Joy, who had passed away almost three years ago, had never been happier than after her husband died.
That should have completely dispelled Benny Tylers opinions of her mental ability, but littlegirls believed what their daddy told them, mostly unconditionally.
She looked over to the wall where the clock hung. It was the only thing she had of her mothers; a family heirloom of sorts, as it had been given to Joy Tyler by her own mother on the day she married Benny. It had no intrinsic value; you could download one in any pawnshop for ten bucks. Yet LuAnn treasured it.
As a little girl LuAnn had listened to the slow, methodical ticks of that clock far into the night.
Knowing that in the middle of all the darkness it would always be there, it would always soothe her into sleep and greet her in the morning. Throughout her growing up it had been one of her few anchoring points. It had a connection, too, in that it went back to her grandmother, a woman LuAnn had adored.
Having that clock around was like having her grandmother around forever. As the years had gone by, its inner workings had worn down considerably so that it produced unique sounds. It had carried LuAnn through more bad times than good, and right before Joy died she had told LuAnn to take it, to take good care of it.
And now LuAnn would keep it for her daughter. She pulled her thick auburn hair straight back, tried a bun, and then dexterously knotted a French braid.
Not satisfied with either of these looks, she finally piled her thick tresses on top and secured them with a legion of bobby pins, frequently cocking her head to test the effect. At five feet ten inches tall, she also had to stoop to see herself in the mirror. Every few seconds she looked over at the small bundle on the chair next to her.
She smiled as she took in the droopy eyes, the curved mouth, the chipmunk cheeks,and doughy fists. Eight months and growing up fast. Her daughter had already started to crawl with the funny, back-and-forth gyrations of infancy.
Walking would soon replace that. LuAnn stopped smiling as she looked around. It would not take Lisa long to navigate the boundaries of this place. The interior, despite LuAnns diligent efforts to keep it clean, resembled the exterior largely due to the temperamental outbursts of the man sprawled on the bed.
Would you be willing to become another person entirely, loose your identity? This is a page-turner that will keep you up till the early morning hours!!
Ross M. This is a a wonderfully crafted story that keeps you turning the pages until the end. Although that book was enjoyable, this one was, in my opinion, just better. Baldacci is better well known for his political thrillers and this one doesn't quite fall into that genre, which is a welcome change.
Always a good thing when a writer can be diverse with his subject matter. The story itself is interesting, and what makes it interesting is that it is sort of unique.
A little far fetched that someone could fix the lottery and cook up such an elaborate scheme to control people's lives?
But that is not something you think about while reading this book-the characters are engrossing.