What would you get if you crossed the writing style of Mark Twain with Winston Groom, author of Forest Gump? You would get Dexter’s fun, hyperbolic yet touching tale about a man who seemed doomed to mediocrity from birth. Not only did his twin die at birth, Spooner’s mother made it a point to remind him about the fifty-three hours of pain-wracked labor she endured on his behalf. His father died long before Spooner got to know him. Once a promising pitcher, Spooner had to settle for a job as a reporter and later, as a more accomplished writer knowing all the while that nothing will ever match the euphoria of breaking into a neighbor’s house and relieving himself in their boots.
Spooner’s stepfather Calmer Ottosson is no stranger to calamity as his ill-fated military career is short-circuited by an outrageous burial at sea debacle where his hand ends up on the widow’s breast. The speedy court martial that followed the incident left Calmer with some broken pieces. Marriage to Spooner’s mother did little to mend those pieces, as she made no bones about his inability to satisfy her many demands. Calmer has more success as a stepfather by providing Spooner with some much-needed stability yet their personalities couldn’t be more different. A hilarious bit of deja vu comes when Spooner and his siblings attempt to scatter Calmer’s ashes in Puget Sound seems a fitting end to this enjoyable piece of storytelling.
Deeply conflicted characters blend seamlessly with quick wit and satisfying depth making this a rare treat. Despite their flaws or maybe because of them, Spooner and Calmer become endearing protagonists who seem to have no clue what makes the other guy tick. Dexter’s deft touch injects an element of fun into dysfunctional families.