A few years ago, I wrote a piece over at MyFDL about a buddy of mine, Neil Haugerud. He’s done so much and been so much in his lifetime — farmer, Marine Corps veteran, sheriff, state legislator, entrepreneur, author, newspaper columnist, conflict resolution negotiator, drug law reform advocate, bow hunter back when bow hunting wasn’t fashionable — that I like to think of him as The (Real) Most Interesting Man in the World.
Neil’s main claim to fame nowadays is as the author of Jailhouse Stories, a collection of tales chronicling his eight years as sheriff of Fillmore County, Minnesota. (You can listen to Neil reading the introduction to it here.) But now he’s got a new book out, a novel called Holiday Forever, which is also his first foray into the e-book world.
Here is where I discuss what in my opinion is the worst thing about the book: Its cover. I really, really wish Neil had found a graphic designer worthy of the book’s contents, because I’m just so afraid that horrible cover is going to turn people off from the book. Blech! (Gee, I hope Neil’s still speaking to me after this.)
Having finished with admonishing readers to not judge an e-book by its cover, let’s move on to the book itself. I’ve already stated that it’s a novel; but, you may ask, what sort of novel? Good question.
Holiday Forever isn’t a book that’s easily pigeonholed. The beginning and end of the book concern themselves with the utter ridiculous waste of human lives and talent brought on by our waging the War on Some Drugs, as well as the wars on other pleasures, recreations, self-expressions, age groups (the elderly in particular), sexual orientations, and modes of existence. (By the way, it’s likely that a key reason the war continues is because the laundering of drug-cartel money is what’s propping up our banking system. But I digress.) But the middle sections detail the history of the Bartel family and their associated kith and kin, friends and enemies, set in a small-town rural setting spanning several decades.
It’s not at all a preachy book; though he expresses them strongly, the stances Neil sets forth are a natural outgrowth of what happens to his characters, part of the book’s flow rather than standing outside of it. (For instance, he doesn’t come out and say “Gosh, sexual prudery, bigotry, sexism, ignorance and lack of tolerance or communication are dangerous and stupid things” — instead, he lets his characters show how their lives are circumscribed, if not truncated, by these things.) And while he may seem to range far afield at times, be patient: All of the book’s storylines come together at the end, in a graceful and natural way.
Go check it out. It’s on sale for 99 cents right now. Can’t beat that with a stick, even if it does have an ugly cover.