Back-to-One Books, $12.95, ISBN 0-9777-6110-X
Bruce Hoppe’s Don’t Let All the Pretty Days Get By is a story of a woman who returns to her mother’s ranch in New Mexico in order to take care of her sick mother and find love (and herself) along the way. Sounds like a familiar story? Well, not quite, as Mr Hoppe adds in crazy nudists in a Clothing Optional Hot Air Ballooning (COHAB) agenda, a senator who claims to channel the dead predecessor, two crazy ranch hands called Song and Dance, and plenty of bizarre lawsuits and local political shenanigans that culminates in our PR person Teddy Gibbs playing hometown defense attorney, politician, and odd sane duck among the crazy nuts all at once. There is some romance but it’s not the main priority in this story.
I don’t want to give away too many things about the story because part of the charm of this book is the surprise experienced by the reader as the story keeps become more and more absurd. It is as if poor Teddy is Alice trapped in a more over-the-top and less subtle version of Wonderland.
As with most humorous stories, this one will be a hit or miss depending on how the reader enjoys his or her wacky comedies. There is nothing subtle here about I am grateful that Mr Hoppe doesn’t get too scatological when it comes to his punchlines. Initially I find this story a little forced at times with some of the scenes meant to amuse come off as contrived, but it doesn’t take long before I find myself caught up in the whole amusing tomfoolery going on here. Even when a part of me is going, “Oh, this is ridiculous!”, Mr Hoppe easily makes me laugh and go along with the ride.
Teddy isn’t the most interesting main character. In fact, there are times when I wish she will loosen up more and stop being so much of a city girl stereotype. But on the whole she makes a great foil to the various odd ducks and eccentric around her. The best thing about this book, I believe, is how Mr Hoppe creates an atmospheric setting for his story. I love the dialogues. There are local “voice” and “culture” here that feel authentic.
Don’t Let All the Pretty Days Get By may not work completely for me, but it has its share of very funny moments. Fans of more subtle forms of comedy may want to proceed with caution where this book is concerned, but really, it’s all pretty good.