I bought this book because of the title. Period. Covers are great, and I’ve made more than one purchase based on them, but what I really love is a good title. True, it’s not the most scientific way to choose what you are going to read, but I find it about as effective as reading reviews. And usually it works out. But sadly, this time I was disappointed.
The Rib From Which I Remake the World has an interesting premise competently executed. First, the synopsis.
In a small, rural Arkansas town in the midst of World War II, hotel house detective George “Jojo” Walker wearily maintains the status quo in the wake of personal devastation. That status quo is disrupted when a hygiene picture roadshow rolls into town with a controversial program on display and curious motives in mind. What begins with a gruesome and impossible murder soon spirals into hallucinatory waking nightmares for Jojo—nightmares that converge with his reality and dredge up his painful, secret past. Black magic and a terrifying Luciferian carnival boil up to a surreal finale for the town of Litchfield, when truth itself unfurls and Jojo Walker is forced to face his own identity in ways he could never have expected.
Sound interesting, right? And it is. The small town has everything one would expect a small town to have in the 40s. A soda shop, a movie palace, an over-zealous church body. It’s sufficiently Arkansas, with the latent racism and the overwhelming heat. The heat is particularly well done. You can feel it as if you were there.
And those are all good things. But something’s missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I didn’t really enjoy this book. Oh, I finished it, without trouble or complaint. I was moderately interested to find out what was going to happen. So why didn’t it come together? I don’t know. I can’t really say.
It’s as if the book just never got its feet underneath it. Some of that was poor editing. I’m not talking typos; I don’t care about those. But there’s a strange part in the middle of the book where the two main characters have the same plot developing conversations–complete with repeated surprise at certain revelations–in two successive sections. It’s so bizarre and off-putting that I considered it possible that it was just part of the book, another symptom of the weirdness of the situation. But I don’t think so. It’s also strange that a major plot point–one of the characters breaking her ankle–is essentially forgotten as soon as it become convenient to do so. At one point, she is laying in a ditch unable to move. At another, she is running down the street.
I really don’t know what to say about Rib. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. At the end of the day, I can’t recommend it, but I won’t tell you to steer clear.
I know–this review is pretty much worthless. At the end of the day, you’ll just have to decide whether the title is worth giving it a shot.