This is probably the hardest book review I’ll ever write. As an author myself I always preface my reviews with the information of whether I know the author or not. I’ve “met” Larry Enright on Facebook, Twitter and a variety of other forums. I love his wit and sense of humor. I’ve interviewed him and didn’t take offense to his comment that my writing career was inspired by a Rabid Dog (“Old Yeller”). And I’m not a professional reviewer.
When I told Larry that I had purchased his book he emailed me and told me it was “Different”, and he hoped I liked it.
Different would be one way of describing “Four Years From Home”. Most people assume since I write dark, not-so-cozy murder mysteries that my taste in literature runs the gamut of James Patterson, Tami Hoag, Kay Hooper, Patricia Cornwell and other mystery writers with a penchant for murder and mayhem. They would be right to a certain extent, but I also loved C. S. Lewis. The first time I read “The Screw Tape Letters” I was amazed, thrilled and awed by a work of literary art so deep, and so exquisite I almost felt I should chop off my fingers for even considering myself to be an author. “The Screw Tape Letters” was different. A book that inspired great passion in those who read it, and those who attempted to read it and burned it as blasphemy. Growing up in the Bible belt I naturally assumed it would burst into flames as soon as I opened it, or at the very least I would be stricken with some horrible malady for reading such “trash”. It has a place of honor on my bookshelf as being one of the true literary arts of my time, and the exact opposite of what I was led to believe. That’s all I can say about it without giving you spoilers.
Several years ago a movie came out called “Sixth Sense”. Millions of people watched this movie before I did, but out of millions of reviews not one person gave away the spoiler. That fascinated me. It was definitely “different”. And millions of people kept that secret religiously. There were minor clues along the way, but so intricately weaved into the story that you missed them.
Which brings me back to “Four Years From Home”. A work of literary art which I believe will inspire passion within each reader. You will love it – or you will hate it. Or perhaps like me you will love it and hate it (which I can’t say why without giving away a spoiler). Within the pages of “Four Years From Home” Mr. Enright has weaved an intricate model of human hopes, dreams, fears, strengths and weaknesses. The brilliance of the human mind, and the frailty of the human mind.
Tom Ryan is a Legend In His Own Mind. Much like every child and artistic adult who grew up in an atmosphere that allows the imagination to develop and grow. Reality is just a figment of our imagination to be bent, changed and shaped to our will. But somewhere deep inside, perhaps at the core of our existence, deep within the soul lies a reality we cannot bend; we cannot change or shape to our will. A reality we can only at best attempt to run away from and escape.
I can’t say more without giving away a spoiler, which is why this was a very difficult review to write.
OVERALL BOOK – 4.5 Stars
I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5 because I found at least 5 typos in the book were words were omitted from a sentence and in one case transposed in a sentence. For a debut novel this is minor, as my own traditionally published first book had 7 typos. When I brought this to the attention of my publisher the comeback was, “Patricia Cornwell’s new book has 28 typos in it.” My comeback was, “I’m not Patricia Cornwell.” As authors we have a responsibility to our readers. As self-published authors that responsibility, in my humble opinion, increases.
CHARACTERIZATION – 5 Stars
You are immediately drawn into the Ryan family through Tom’s internal dialogue, and through interaction with his mother, father, sisters and brothers. You’re given a clear– at least according to the legend– concise “picture” of the family and their strengths and weaknesses. They each become someone you feel you know intimately. Especially Harry. Sweet, special Harry.
Although some may consider this a backdoor approach into characterization, it worked for me.
PLOT – 5 Stars
The plot is “different”. If you’re a traditional mystery follower who expects certain things to happen in order, you may be slightly disappointed. But the plot is unique. A true literary art, as it is subtle, and perhaps somewhat hidden in the Legend’s mind. And the purpose of a mystery is to lead the reader down a path of intrigue, throwing out subtle clues and yet revealing nothing that will allow you to grasp the conclusion–therein, Mr. Enright has excelled. I, as a mystery writer, applaud myself on being able to figure out early on “what’s going on”. That didn’t happen here. I was tempted many times to move to the end of the book, but as with all books I enjoy I denied myself that pleasure and kept turning pages. Searching for the clues that would reveal the end. I was astounded. I would never have guessed the ending.
This was a difficult book to review because I loved it, and I hated it, and I wanted to tell you why, but much like “Sixth Sense” , that would reveal far too much. You may find yourself a little irritated by Tom’s obsession with (oops, can’t say, because that’s a spoiler), but if you like “different” then I truly believe you’ll love this book. A fantastic debut novel, and one I’m glad I didn’t miss.