Home > memoir > Bastard Husband — A Love Story, by Linda Lou

Bastard Husband — A Love Story, by Linda Lou

MEMOIR

“What happens in Vegas…

… doesn’t often find itself captured in prose as vibrantly as it does in Bastard Husband: A Love Story. On her thrill ride through romance, marriage, and divorce, Linda Lou paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to forge a new life as an ‘ageing nymph’ in Sin city.” ~Megan Edwards, Managing Editor, http://www.Living-Las-Vegas.com

A week after I arrived in Sin City, I attended a divorce support group I found in the local newspaper listed between Cross-Dressers of Las Vegas and Friends and Family of Incarcerated People. (And I thought I had problems.) As I sat among a circle of strangers waiting for my turn to share, I glanced at the Absolutely No Swearing sign hanging from the ceiling and thought, this will be a challenge.

“I’m Linda,” I began, “I have no husband, no job, and you people are my only friends.” Everyone laughed at my pathetic truth. ~LINDA LOU

Balancing poignancy and edgy humour, Linda Lou reflects on the troubled relationship that prompted this story and leads readers through a hodgepodge of emotions as fast as a Vegas buffet—from the sadness of a failed relationship and the questioning of her spiritual convictions to the thrill of exploring the neon nightlife and the triumph of performing stand-up comedy for the first time at age 46.

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Bastard Husband: A Love Story is a memoir of divorce and life in Las Vegas and although I found it perfectly readable and mostly error-free, I’m afraid that I didn’t warm to the narrator. Some of the scenes she described were terribly sad and her ex-husband’s treatment of her was abusive; and yet she chose to tell her story in a joke-filled style which stripped the poignancy from her words and instead made the book a brittle and uncomfortable read. She also has a habit of hammering her points home, which again reduces the effectiveness of the text; and she needs to brush up on her comma-use to, as she often uses them when they’re not required and so slows her narrative.

It’s so close to being good: but because of the problems I encountered I read just thirteen pages out of two hundred and sixty. I’d like to see this book rewritten to introduce more variety of tone, and then edited stringently. Some more positive scenes would be a useful addition, as would a little more empathy and a little less desperate humour. If that work were carried out this could well become a tight, enjoyable read: but as it is, it’s too slow and laboured, with a constant background of unresolved sadness which made me feel quite uncomfortable.

  1. June 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I have to say, someone who employs a “joke-filled style” to evoke a “constant background of unresolved sadness” seems like she might be on the right track. Also, I have a weakness for “desperate humour.” Especially desperate humor that’s “perfectly readable” and “error-free.” She’s got the narrative arc in place: Breaking a cycle of violence, starting anew in Las Vegas (of all places), and climbing up on a stage for the first time at age 46. Looked it up on Amazon. $15.95 is kind of top-end for paper, but might be worth a look.

    On another note, it may be rash to suggest that the background of unresolved sadness is truly constant, based on a reading of only 13 pages. Maybe there’s a ray of sunshine on page 20!

  2. June 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I have to agree with Harry: I’m not sure how a reviewer, even Jane, can be so sure about the arc and tone of a novel based on just 13 pages. A joke-filled style would get old quickly if the jokes weren’t good — but she didn’t say they weren’t funny. And could one really expect the sadness of a divorce tale to be resolved by page 13? The treatment may have been deserved, but the review was not entirely convincing in it’s harshness.

  3. Jane Smith
    June 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    You’re both over-simplifying things, and missing several points.

    It’s not enough for a book to be an easy read: it has to be an interesting, entertaining, and/or absorbing read too. And if the tone doesn’t mesh with the subject-matter then it’s an uncomfortable read; and if that tone doesn’t vary at all in the first few pages, it gets dull.

    Have you ever watched people browsing the books in a bookshop? Not only do they very rarely read to page twenty, they very rarely even read to page two. They pick a book up because its cover or title interests them; they might have a quick look at the back cover copy; then they’ll glance at the first page. The whole process takes no more than thirty seconds, and usually a good amount less, and that’s all the time that we, as writers, have to grab our readers and convince them to buy our books. If a book doesn’t really get interesting until page twenty then the writer has missed her chance to grab her potential readers’ attention, and her sales will almost certainly suffer as a result.

    I’m sorry you think I’ve been unnecessarily harsh: but I prefer to do my best to be honest and realistic in my reviews. I think it’s far more useful than being unrealistically encouraging: your view might vary.

  4. June 9, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Don’t really doubt your judgement on the book, Jane, it just didn’t seem fully supported by the details in your review — I probably missed something. Your observations on the way we buy books is mostly valid, but I’ve read through 50-100 dull pages waiting for a book to get interesting based on the promises made in glowing reviews. But not many of those books find publishers these days.

  5. Jane Smith
    June 10, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Ah, I see. It’s impossible for me to review books here with anything more than very broad strokes so yes, I can’t put everything in (nor would I want to all the time: it can be a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Not that that was the case for this book).

    I’ve ploughed through books that I didn’t enjoy but often that’s down to personal taste, rather than poor writing or a lack of commercial viability. I don’t do it any more: life’s too short, and there are so many good books to read.

  6. July 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks for the review of the first 13 pages. I hadn’t realized it posted until a reader emailed me. I was wondering why I had the spike in Amazon sales! Thank you!

  7. July 13, 2011 at 2:51 am

    A spike in sales!? That’s great news, Linda Lou! I’m waiting with desperately and relentlessly good humor for Jane to review mine: Root Cause: the Story of a Food Fight Fugitive. Jane, do you give clues on where one’s baby sits drooling in the queue?

  8. July 18, 2011 at 6:58 am

    It took well over a year for the review, so stay patient, Jim. You have to have good humor, all right! It’s an interesting perspective, but at least once a week I’ll hear from a reader who tells me I’ve had a positive impact on her life and that’s what really matters! Best of luck to you!

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