October 16, 2012

Evel Knievel Days

by Pauls Toutonghi
ages: adult
First sentence: "Everyone knows that the Ancient Egyptians mummified their dead."
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I was in the mood for something weighty, in between all the YA and MG books I was reading, and I wandered around the bookstore looking for something suitable. I finally settled on this one, mostly because I was curious about a book (and an author) who can make more than one of the managers go all *swoon* every time they mention him.

Khosi Saqr is living a quiet life in Butte, Montana. He was raised by his single mom, and aside from a trip to a museum in Seattle, he's never left Butte. Content, at age 23, to get up, go to work at the local historical museum, and be the taster for his mother's (who is on medication for Wilson's disease and has lots of allergies) Egyptian catering business (she's white; it was his father who is Egyptian; she commandeered his family recipes), Khosi never really expected much from his life.

Then Butte's Evel Knievel Days come around, and Khosi's life is turned upside down. Next thing he knows, he's done the impossible: gotten on a plane (against his mother's recommendation) and flown to Cairo to find his father. What he does find is a mess: his father, a compulsive gambler and an equally compulsive liar, is getting remarried. And has neglected to tell his fiance, or his family, that he has a (living) son and ex-wife. Everything comes to a head when Khosi comes down with yellow fever, and his life hangs in the balance.


So, I'm not quite sure what to think about this now that I'm done. It was weird: part magical realism (he's hallucinating a ghost that gives him advice), but not really. Part a foodish book (his mother cooks Egyptian food and he goes on about the eloquence and importance of dishes), but not really. Part a coming of age book (he goes to Egypt to find his father and reconcile with him after 20 years), but not really.

That said, I liked the book. Toutonghi has such a comfortable way of writing, a very companionable way of writing that even though it wasn't really a lot of things, it was entertaining. I liked Khosi as a character, I liked going on his (somewhat weird) journey with him, and I liked the outcome: he was able to find a place to belong, and break out of his shell.

So, yeah, I can kind of see what the managers are talking about. He's a good writer and an interesting storyteller. I'm not sure it was what I was looking for, but it was enjoyable at any rate.

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