Sunday, August 02, 2009

Book Review: Buffalo Lockjaw

Buffalo Lockjaw: A Novel
By Greg Ames

James Fitzroy is a man on a mission: to kill his mother. He is not a diabolical man, he loves is mother. He’s not an assassin; he doesn’t want her to suffer. He has a vague idea of who he is, his mother does not. Fifty-six year old Ellen Fitzroy, who spent a lifetime researching dementia, now lives in a nursing home, unable to care for herself, suffering from the effects of advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Greg Ames boldly has chosen euthanasia, a difficult topic filled with internal and external conflicts, for his debut novel and set it in the cold winter of Buffalo, New York, a town which seems to have as much of an identity crisis as Ellen.

James arrives at his mother’s bedside just in time to help her celebrate Thanksgiving. His father, who visits Ellen every day and sister show up shortly there after. This isn’t the holiday of James’ childhood. James recognizes what everyone around him fails to see, Ellen is suffering a fate she never wanted to suffer, she wanted to die with dignity and now even that has been taken away from her.

As James wrestles with the idea of helping his mother die, he makes contact with friends of his passed that are stuck in Buffalo, both literally, figuratively, and as a mindset, and as he drives through Buffalo, the past is never as far away as he once thought it was.

I did not find Mr. Ames’ novel “darkly comic” as blurbed on its back cover, but rather a well written, easy read. And that’s about as much as can be said about it. While reading it, I felt a tangential connection to the characters, but I never really got to know them, and in that respect it was unsatisfying, I wanted to dig deeper into these characters. There was no ratcheting up of the plot, aside from Ellen’s life, which as for all intents and purposes already ended; there is nothing at stake for James.

In the novel’s conclusion, Mr. Ames took the easy way out, Ellen is dead, and James did not kill her. It is an anticlimax that left me feeling nothing but the satisfaction of having finished reading the book.

ISBN 978-1-4013-0980-0, Hyperion, © 2009, Trade Paperback, 304 pages, $14.95

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