3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Call me prejudiced if you want, but when I think of friends I'd like to have, drug addicts and hookers are NOT the first people to come to mind. Well, leave it to Parker T. Pettus and his musical comedy, People Like Us, to introduce me to just such a group of people whom, while I still wouldn't want to be their friend, I didn't mind hanging out with for a few days.
The tome in question is actually less a story and more of a fictionalized account on how this segment of society lives, with the reader experiencing a day in the life - or more like 25 days, give or take - of the aforementioned members of society. As such, there is no real overriding storyline. In fact, most of the days - with each chapter comprising a day or so - don't even really have a conflict to resolve. According to the author, "All the events described in this book actually happened in a dream I had one night after eating too much Mexican food", so considering the jumbled nature of dreams, it makes sense that this is how the book would turn out. With that being said, the events were easy enough to follow along with, whether it was a birthday party that was like a "crack party with pornography and prostitutes", wherein the prostitute in question went on "dates" with most of the guests or a drug delivery where the narrator nearly got caught by the police. My favorite "day" was the one where a different hooker, Marcy, tested the limits of the hotel assistant manager's dedication to obeying the rules. I also really liked Christmas, a day on which Bonnie, ever the working girl, demanded pay for a kiss and groping that took place under the mistletoe.
With a nonlinear book like this, it can be hard to keep the characters straight. Fortunately, the first few chapters are mostly introductions to the book's players, including Hitless Dick, the drug-runner, and Babyface, an addict, not to mention Bonnie, the drug-addicted hooker, and the book's narrator, sometimes referred to as "Crack Daddy". Other major characters include Sebastian and Sacco, two of Bonnie's regular "dates" who fancy themselves her boyfriends. Griselda is a drug dealer who often houses the motley crew, and DeLuxe is yet another prostitute. Even though none of the characters are fully fleshed out, they are given enough of a description to understand their motivations - drugs and sex! - and it was easy enough to see them as being real people. I especially enjoyed that the narrator was in love with Bonnie because being in love with a crack whore brings out so many emotions in the unlucky man, and those emotions are explored somewhat in this book.
I have to admit that even though many of the chapters were mostly amusing, I found myself wearying of the tales at the midway point, and it became difficult to motivate myself to pick the file back up since there was no overriding goal. One of the book's saving graces, therefore, were the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the quotes were by the author, and others were attributed to other famous people. The sayings mostly captured the essence of chapter to follow. For instance, we learn that "You can buy a hideout but you have to make a home" just before we read about Griselda's place and the people who lie their heads there. My favorite saying by far was "If you can walk in your sleep and talk in your sleep then you can tell everyone you're living the dream and they won't know you're not even awake", found at the top of the chapter explaining how time means nothing to addicts and the perils of going many nights without sleep. Similarly, the author invented a catalog for druggies, called the Whole Crack Catalog, which is mentioned a few times in the book. This catalog included interesting items like the CrackBackVac™, a hand vacuum used to "separate small pieces of crack from the bits of sugar frosting and small pieces of paper and crumbs from baked goods that abound on car floors", and each mention of different products in the catalog made me giggle.
The book's other major saving grace was the music. Since the file was in .epub form, there were nine playable songs positioned throughout the book, thereby greatly increasing my enjoyment. The tunes were all appropriately placed and succinctly summed up the chapters in which they were located. What I found most amusing, though, was that the majority of the ditties were of the country music genre, with the other couple sounding more like folk music. I was shocked when I heard the first piece, as I expected hard rock or hip-hop; the incongruity of songs about drugs and hookers and crime backed by country tracks had me laughing until I was in tears more than once. I would definitely listen to the songs time and again if there was a way to download them because they were all well-arranged, and the vocals were on-point. My favorite tunes were Driving the Drugs, a drug-runner's anthem, and My Girlfriend is a Hooker, a song based on the aforementioned narrator's feelings for Bonnie. I also really liked Gettin' Busted Ain't no Crime, a song that falls towards the end of a tale about a drug run gone bad for one of the characters.
Sadly, the grammar in the book often struck sour notes, as there were many errors, and I had ten mistakes noted by the fourth page. The missteps ran the gamut from punctuation mishaps to capitalization errors to extra or missing words. There were also many misspellings of the characters' names after their names had already been established, and most irritating of all, the comma after speech was often outside of the quotation marks rather than inside, with the same sentence ending in a comma instead of the correct period. These mistakes were especially upsetting because the author otherwise has a beautiful way with words, as in the sentence, "You ride along on auto-pilot, neutrally buoyant in a cocktail of perceptions, real and imagined".
I had a really difficult time coming up with a rating for People Like Us. Due to the numerous writing errors, I had to subtract one star. I also considered dropping another due to the loss of interest I experienced a few times, but the music more than made up for the latter, so I'm going with 3 out of 4 stars.
If you're a fan of musicals or nonlinear stories and you don't mind foul language and sexual situations, you may like this book. You may also want to give this a read if you're curious about the way certain citizens live and don't mind if the tale isn't 100% accurate. Finally, if you have weird dreams and like to compare yours to other dreamers', grab your copy of this tome.
(I DID finish this one, of course.)Inviting others to celebrate your birthday is like recommending a book you haven't finished.
- Parker T. Pettus, Chapter Three, People Like Us.
People Like Us
View: on Bookshelves | on parkertpettus.com | on iTunes
The website parkertpettus.com contains a sample chapter and a sample song.
Like MsTri's review? Post a comment saying so!