Reviewer Sandra Shwayder Sanchez: Sandra is
a retired attorney and co-founder of a small non-profit publishing
collective: The Wessex Collective with whom she has published two short fiction collections
(A Mile in These Shoes and Three Novellas) and one
Her most recent novel, The Secret of A Long Journey is soon to be released by Floricanto Press in April 2012 and her first novel, The Nun, originally published by Plain View Press in 1992 is being reissued in a 2nd Edition with additional material by PVP in March 2012.
Author: Tim Sandlin
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Lydia is an exquisitely twisted braid of genealogical plots too complex to describe.You just have to read it. I suspect much of it was inspired by someone’s reality because, the truth is, the truth is not only stranger than fiction but oft-times unimaginable.Whatever the inspiration, the imagination that went into this novel is downright mind boggling.
The Lydia in Lydia is an outrageous, difficult woman but I started to understand how she got to be that way. Have you ever thought if it weren’t for bad luck you’d have no luck at all? Have you ever had the insight that hope and expectations are just a set up for failure and disappointment? Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you scream your head off but no sound comes out? Have you ever despaired of ever getting anyone to understand what you are trying to say, especially when what you are trying to say is urgent? Have you ever wanted to just throw a tantrum in absolute frustration with bureaucracy? Have you ever despaired of the crazy upside down unfairness in our world ever being set right side up? Tim Sandlin understands all this. I was upset with Lydia for trashing the hardware store but came to have real empathy for her when she dragged her granddaughter off the couch and berated her to get on with some kind of life. She chose weird ways to express it but she did love that girl.
Orbiting around the title character is quite a cast. Watching and listening to them, especially Sam the narrator son of Lydia, I ran the gamut of emotions from a quiet “amen to that” chuckle to a knee slapping belly laugh and more than once I hollered at my husband, “hey listen to this” and read bits of dialogue out loud so he could share my laughter. And then there were the times I just held my breath in terror wondering what that sociopath Leroy was going to do next. This book will get your adrenalin going in all directions. Told in tandem with the present story is the oral history Lydia is recording as a community service assignment, of Oly coming up on his 100th birthday. Both stories are equally hysterical and heartbreaking in turns and the author moves them along at a galloping pace.
I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first novel by Tim Sandlin I’ve had the pleasure to read. But I’m admitting it because it means I am also very lucky insofar as now that I’ve finished reading his most recent opus, still hungry for more of this author’s wacky wisdom from authentically “squirrely” characters, I’ve got places to go satisfy that hunger. Quotes on the book jacket and front pages claim that other reviewers have compared him to such notables as Ed Abbey, Tom Robbins, Larry McMurtry, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouack (wonder why they left out Jim Harrison?) but honestly I think Tim Sandlin has earned his place among the best of his peers and that reviewers should probably be praising other worthy authors by comparing them to him. He deserves the enhanced visibility.