Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Author: James R. Ament
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Roberts and Ross Publishing, 2011
Read for: Review
Zoe, an aspiring journalist going to school in New York, isn't sure what to expect when she heads to a rural internship in Wyoming, other than bullheaded Republicans. However, she figures the internship will be of some benefit, sandwiched between her plan to campaign for Obama and work some extra shifts as a waitress at the high-end restaurant she works at during the school year. She isn't expecting to fall in love or have her perspectives changed. And she definitely wasn't expecting the curveballs life was about to throw at her.
To be honest, I almost didn't finish Waiting for Zoe. After the first hundred pages or so of the novel, I thought about giving up -- the pace was slow and meandering and I wasn't sure exactly what I was supposed to be getting out of the story. However, in the end, an enjoyment of the characters and their simple way of life compelled me to finish the book.
As I just mentioned, the plot of Waiting for Zoe meanders. Things happen slowly and in great detail. While this can be an asset for a book, I think it is a weakness in the case of Waiting for Zoe -- the plot would get along much better with a little less weight. However, in the second half of the novel, events do pick up a bit, although some of the events feel a bit random and sensational compared with the first half of the book. In addition, a side story is referred to throughout the book. Eventually this story is connected with Zoe's and the reasoning for it became clear, but it was distracting to me throughout the first 80% of the book as I could not see how it fit into the rest of the events.
The dragging pace is accented by the dialogue of the characters, who tend to explain themselves and share more information in conversations than felt quite natural. The dialogue felt a bit stilted to me as characters would go into their exact motivations and reasoning. I know I sound like a broken record when I say "show don't tell!" but many of the things the characters spelled out in words would have been better depicted by describing a gesture or a reaction.
However, something about the mood of the book struck home for me. While my hometown is not as rural as the small Wyoming town described in Waiting for Zoe, I did grow up in that corner of the United States. Many of the interests of the characters, such as hunting and horses, are interests that are present in my own family. The characters' simple, no-nonsense approach to faith and living a good life also appealed to me. In the end, these qualities pushed me to finish the book, and by the end I felt that I had not wasted my time.
While Waiting for Zoe has some flaws, it also has some redeeming qualities and may appeal to those who enjoy Christian fiction (although be warned it is not squeaky-clean) and modern tales of Western life.
Warnings: Strong language, scene of violence, scene of sexual assault, sensuality