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Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale
Cover Artist: Jon Foster
Review by Jon Guenther
Subterranean Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596067172
Date: 30 November 2015 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Publisher's Book Page / Show Official Info /

If you enjoy colorful tales with characters that have depth, you need not look beyond Fender Lizards. Joe Lansdale's novel is a poignant tale that reads like a rural, coming-of-age legend in the vein of Fried Green Tomatoes. The plot centers on a young teenager named Dot Sherman, also our narrator, who works as a skating waitress at the local drive-in and lives in a trailer with her family, sans her absentee father. In addition, Dot works with her older sister whose husband is an unemployed, drunken good-for-nothing, with whom she has an altercation early in the story. Surprisingly, the outcome doesn't bode well for her brother-in-law, with Dot the clear victor on more than one level.

While I do enjoy a good amount of Mr. Lansdale's work, it still came as a surprise to me that I enjoyed this book, as this kind of fiction isn't my normal appetite. The storyteller we have in Dot is fun and engaging, a voice that drew me from the first page and refused to let go. Moreover, this is a very clever tale as it involves ages-old conflicts that could plague just about any American family yet, somehow, the author delivers it in such a tongue-in-cheek fashion, I couldn't help but experience moments where I wanted to laugh, followed by other moments that touched me.

There's nothing predictable about Fender Lizards, and I challenge readers who like such stories to put this one down. It's a fun story in many respects, told in a lean but respectful fashion, crafted by an experienced voice in fiction. I recommend this book for youngsters, adults, or anyone who simply wants to be entertained by a lighthearted tromp through small-town Americana.

There is a caveat. While this could border on the realm of "rural fantasy" (whatever that is), there are no hard fantasy or science-fiction elements in this book. Still, it's a smart and enjoyable enough story I felt it worthy of an honorable mention.

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