Home > fiction, novel, recommended > Stubbs And Bernadette: Levi Montgomery

Stubbs And Bernadette: Levi Montgomery

June 10, 2010

You cannot be yourself, until you know who you are.

Her name is Bernadette Elsbeth McIntyre, and she hates it. There’s a whole story about the people in the family she’s named after, people she’s never met, never seen, never heard from, but she tries to not learn it, tries to not remember it. She hates names in general, and her name in particular. She hates the whole concept of names. Names make things real. Names give things substance. Knowing names gives people power. Only someone who knows your name can get you into trouble. Think about it — what’s the first thing the cops always ask you for?

Alone, at home, in bed, he goes again through the long catalog of her imperfections, trying to make sense of this whole thing, trying to scare himself off, away from this whole spooky set of new feelings. Her hair is wild and uneven, her ears stick out a little, her eyes… well, all right, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her big green eyes. Her nose has been broken, and it’s a little crooked, her lips are a tiny bit thicker on the left than the right, her chin is pointy. Her cheekbones, her collarbones, the bones of her wrists and knees, her hipbones, are all just a tiny bit too prominent, her arms and legs a tiny bit too thin. To top all that off, she’s weird — she dresses oddly, shouts at teachers, smashes peas on the lunchroom tables…

Why why why is she the most attractive girl he’s ever seen? Why can’t he stop thinking about her? Why can’t he sleep?

Levi Montgomery lives in Northwest Washington. He has been married for nearly thirty years, and he and his wife have six children, four of whom are active-duty United States military personnel.

Stubbs and Bernadette is an extraordinary book, and Levi Montgomery is a writer of rare potential. He has created some wonderful characters who would veer close to caricature in the hands of a lesser writer: but with him in control they are complex, compelling and utterly believable. I love the stream-of-consciousness flow of his text, and the intimacy and subtlety with which he writes.

Where he lets himself down, though, is in the editing of his work. He frequently takes far too long to make his point; he makes the same point over and over, which gets a little irritating for the reader; and he makes far too much of some things which add nothing to the forward movement of his story, or to the depth of his characterisations.

Stubbs And Bernadette is readable and enchanting: but it would be significantly better if a good editor got her hands on it and helped Montgomery pare away all of his unnecessary meanderings. It would result in a tighter, more compelling narrative without sacrificing any of the beauty and subtlety of Montgomery’s text. I read fifty-two pages out of two hundred and two in order to reach my score of fifteen: but I will be reading this on to the end, and despite its flaws I recommend it wholeheartedly. It’s a beautiful, bewitching book with the potential to be even better.

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  1. June 10, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this. Levi is an incredible writer, and from what I know of him one of the kindest and most talented men you could hope to meet. He is one of the group of self-publishers who takes his craft very very seriously.

  2. June 10, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Go, Levi!

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