Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Cole Alpaugh's THE BEAR IN A MUDDY TUTU

The lovely and talented Regan Leigh is running a competition for her recently-published writing partner, Cole Alpaugh. So head on over to her blog and check out the goodies--but not until you're done reading this review, of course! (There's an amazon gift card AND chocolate-covered bacon involved. Yum!)

Cole Alpaugh's novel, THE BEAR IN A MUDDY TUTU, underscores and tosses a few exclamation points at the old adage about not judging books by their covers. The bear will lie and tell you this is a book for children, but dare to crack the spine and you'll find a work of literary fiction, most definitely for grown-ups.

If pushed to single out the protagonist of TUTU, I'd probably point to the first character we meet, Buddy Wayne Hooduk. He's damaged goods right out of the box, his psyche used as a door mat for his mother to wipe her feet on. Pushed to breaking point, Buddy Wayne escapes his controlling mother and snatches up a how-to guide on becoming a cult leader. That's when his life begins in earnest.

Just as we've settled into Buddy Wayne's shoes, the scenery changes. Others step into focus and tell their heart-wrenching tales. The journalist with a kidnapped child, a girl searching for her dead father, a career alcoholic haunted by his dreams. Each of them, like Buddy Wayne, is their own kind of broken.

But I won't deny it: my heart, for the duration of this story, belonged to Gracie, the bear in the novel's title. Sweet, wistful Gracie, who tries so hard to do the right things and keep her humans happy. Cole pulls us into Gracie's head and shows us the quiet, resigned horror of an animal in bondage. And my heart ached....

I won't dig any deeper here; the discovery of story is so personal, each of us bringing our own baggage to join us in our reading spots. This book is about things lost and other things found. Which is the way life really is.

Ignore the dancing bear.
Do not make eye contact.
Flip to that first page.
I dare you...
There's a story inside, both charming and heartbreaking.

You can buy THE BEAR IN THE MUDDY TUTU right here.

Now go see Regan, because she's got chocolate-covered bacon (and other awesome things!) to give away.