Lottery by Patricia Wood

Recommended to me by: Dave Hingsburger’s blog

The book begins, “My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded. Gram always told me the L stood for Lucky.” Perry is indeed lucky to be raised by his observant, patient Gram, since the rest of his family is avaricious and self-centered in the extreme.

He is also lucky to be employed at Holsted’s Marine Supply (where he does a great job), and to have a best friend Keith who lives on a sailboat in the harbor.

Perry makes the most of the opportunities that luck brings his way, with hard work, integrity, and the careful attention to detail taught by his Gram. He calls himself an auditor, a listener, as he observes the conversations and behaviors of the people around him. His commentary on their quirks is one of the pleasures of the book.

The dramatic plot, as Perry copes with winning $12 million in the lottery and other life events, is a vehicle for a clear moral about not labeling people. Over and over, Perry says he is not retarded, and that it is wrong to label others as well. His successes demonstrate the point.

In a book bringing such awareness to language, it was jarring to see the repeated use of “gyp” to mean “cheated” without comment or apology. The author may need to gain awareness of the discrimination suffered by the Gypsy/Rom peoples.

Overall, a thought-provoking read.

Available at Powell’s Books.

3 comments to “Lottery” by Patricia Wood

  • Thank you for your kind comments about LOTTERY. It’s important to note that as a first person unreliable narrative, characters use language that may be deemed offensive. The author is well aware of the sensitivity of terms such as Gyp, Indian, cripple, and retard, among others but the characters in the book are often oblivious.
    I appreciate you bringing up an important point. Many readers perceive that the novel is a portrayal of the author and it is not. For example my character keith is quite profane but it’s a type of speech I avoid.
    This often initiates a lively discussion in book clubs.
    Much aloha
    Patricia Wood

  • Sonia Connolly

    Hi Patricia,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

    I completely understand that your book is not a self-portrayal. At the same time, it does reflect what you see as important or unimportant.

    It would have been easy to choose a different phrase, or to have a character comment on the phrase at least once, since it is used several times. Perry certainly comments repeatedly on Keith’s profane language.

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