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Robert Italia
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Downtown Owl

Downtown Owl - Chuck Klosterman This is one of the most well-written books I've encountered this year. I will definitely be reading more Klosterman books in the future because I find him to be a great storyteller and character creator. In some ways, his writing reminds me of Douglas Coupland's post-modern pop culture tales.

Klosterman has created a fictitious small town in North Dakota named Owl and written about the people who lived there in 1983 and 1984. Like many small towns, there's no cable television, no movie theater, a few local bars, everyone knows everyone's business, and the most important thing is how the high school football team is doing. What do you do in a town like this to keep from going crazy? You just live.

Klosterman tells the story completely in 3rd person, but each chapter follows around a different character: Julia, a young female teacher new to the town; Mitch, a male high school student who is obsessed with getting the two toughest kids in school to fight; and Horace, an old man who has recently lost his wife. Klosterman leads you into each of their heads where you learn their deepest secrets (like how Horace was cheated out of his wife's insurance money). You also get to hear the town gossip (like which student the English professor is sleeping with).

Since I listened to this as a book-on-CD rather than reading it, I found myself trying to find excuses to ride in my car longer so that I could hear the end of the gossipy tales the characters were telling. Each chapter features a different voice actor depending on if the chapter focuses on Julia, Mitch, or Horace.

I especially enjoyed the first long conversation Julia had with the guy at the bar she'd developed a crush on. What made it unique was that Klosterman let us know, line by line, what each character said versus what they meant by what they said. I think he got it spot on for Julia despite being a male who has never been inside a woman's head before.

The ending was an extreme oh-my-god-what-the... type ending that I absolutely didn't expect. Everything leads to this and the reader doesn't know who will live or die.

I read enough that I really appreciate something different every now and then. Klosterman is my new Coupland.

Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.