Monday, June 15, 2009

REVIEW: Six-Hundred Hours of a Life

Title: Six-Hundred Hours of a Life
Author: Craig Lancaster
Genre: novel
Price: $14.95
Publisher: A Mind Adrift Creative Works
ISBN: 978-0-557-00125-5
Point of Sale: Author’s site
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Craig Lancaster sent me an email, asking that I review his novel Six-Hundred Hours of a Life. I have to admit, it’s not the kind of book I would buy for myself. Which is why it was a good thing I said “yes” to Mr. Lancaster, as I found Six-Hundred Hours a very enjoyable and touching read.

The title refers to 25 days in the life of Edward Stanton Jr, from October 13 to November 6, 2008. Edward (never Ed, Eddie or Ted) suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Asperger syndrome. The two diseases combine to make him a virtual hermit in his house, bought by his father, in Billings Montana. But Edward more-or-less realizes that he’s lonely, and is making efforts to reach out, including online dating. He’s also, more or less by accident, met Donna and her son Kyle, new arrivals in the neighborhood.

Now, normally this would be more than enough to turn me off of a story, but somehow I not only stuck with the book, but enjoyed it. First, Edward, the book’s narrator as well as protagonist, is not a whiner. He knows he has problems, and is trying to fix them as best as he can. Second, Edward’s tense relationship with his father, a county politician, adds needed drama while also being very touching. Lastly, Donna’s complicated personal life adds a realistic measure of excitement, while Edward’s adventures in online dating add a touch of humor. All in all, the effect is like a well-made soup – the ingredients mix together subtly to create a satisfying and tasty dish.

Part of what I enjoyed in this book is the sense of opening. I live in Chicago, and thus experience Chicago traffic on a daily basis. There is a sense of joy when, after crawling along a road, the traffic suddenly opens. Lancaster’s main character experiences that sense of opening during the 25 days of the book. What I also enjoyed were the characters. There are no one-dimensional characters in this book. Even the bit players, including one of Donna’s ex-boyfriends, have more than one dimension.

OCD and Asperger as diseases do create a bit of creepiness in the reader – we all see our little foibles and social faux pas reflected in the disease – but I was able to get past that. Frankly, I think Lancaster uses that level of empathy to help draw the reader in. It works – I found this book surprisingly hard to put down. I also found the book’s ending to be hopeful and uplifting, even with the death of a major character.

I really, really like Six-Hundred Hours, and strongly recommend that you add this book to your library.

RATING 10/10


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Sounds like something I might like, Chris, so thanks.

Kimberly Parker said...

I too, thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a mother of a son with autism I saw many of my son's challenges reflected in Edward. I was able to laugh and appreciate the humor in what can be such a challenge at times.

Craig Lancaster said...

Thanks for the review, Chris. I appreciate your willingness to take on my book.