Missy Marston's new novel Bad Ideas was just such a book. I was immediately caught up in the first few pages and ended up finishing the book in one sitting.
Bad Ideas is set in a fictional, small, run down town in Eastern Ontario in 1973. Marston's detailed descriptions of time and place are excellent. Having lived in a few run down towns myself during that time period, I could easily picture the setting. And everyone knowing everyone's business.
It is twenty two year old Trudy that we meet first. She works in a factory, lives with her mother Claire and her young niece Mercy, and has not had sex in five years. I loved her voice and her attitude. And then - a stranger comes to town. A stranger who is planning an automobile stunt jump in Preston Mills. And that arrival sets off a chain of events.....
I initially thought Bad Ideas would be told from Trudy's view only. But each player is given a voice - seven in all. All with intersecting lives. All wanting something more from life than they have. And all have made or are making some choices that are bad ideas. My heart ached for them and that wanting. But it wasn't pity I felt for them. Each character is just getting on with life despite what it throws at them. Their stories are real and honest and told with both humour and pathos. I became invested in each one.
Marston gave me the ending I was hoping for. Or so I thought. She caught me flat footed in the last few pages. I had to go back and reread the last chapter again to let it sink in. Again, I really appreciated the not knowing, the unexpected and the unpredictability of Marston's tale.
Interspersed amongst narratives and paragraphs are 'Becauses' - one liners that mirror what is going on, hint at what's coming and more. They almost read like a short story within the story. "Because you can only do some things for so long."
I really like Marston's writing and will be happily waiting for her next book. Here's an excerpt of Bad Ideas.
The story of Ken "the Crazy Canuck' Carter's attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket powered Lincoln Continental was Marston's inspiration for Bad Ideas. Now, I don't know if I saw Carter, but when Marston mentioned the Hell Drivers, it sparked a memory for me. I saw the Hell Drivers Stunt Show many, many years ago at the Western Fair in Ontario.