For fans of comic novelists like P.G. Wodehouse, Armistead Maupin, E.F. Benson, and Casey McQuiston, visit Arnold Falls where, given the choice of go big or go home, nine times out of ten the townspeople will go home, get back into their house slippers, and forget about the whole thing, whatever the whole thing was this time. Tempests great and small (mostly small) are always brewing in this tiny, upstate teapot where half of the residents are fighting to preserve Arnold Falls as it was in its red-light-district heyday, half are up to no good, and another half are sleeping it off. And that math is correct.
Jeebie Walker moved north out of the city hoping to find a house with his then-boyfriend and a quieter life. He found the house but lost the boyfriend, and is still searching for the elusive tranquility. Just now, he's helping a pal become the first female mayor of Arnold Falls; he's fighting against a plan to build a noxious tire factory by the river; and he's working to save Chaplin, a beloved turkey, from Thanksgiving.
The town of Arnold Falls may get a lot of things wrong but it's also a place where food, music, friendship, love, and tending your own garden are connected in surprising ways.
Plot: Suisman's story is well-paced and near expertly comedically timed. The chapters often read as self-contained stories, though it's unclear if they add up to a sum that's greater than its parts.
Prose/Style: The writing is lively and comedic. Jeebie makes for a fascinating and eccentric narrator, however, the level of detail Jeebie provides at times weighs down the story, impacting the forward momentum.
Originality: The focus on idiosyncratic small town hijinks, though not particularly novel, is elevated by the depth felt in Suisman's characters, adding freshness to the setup.
Character Development: The author’s ability to craft character shines as every member of the ensemble cast feels fully fleshed out, genuine, and charmingly flawed.
Date Submitted: April 07, 2020
Half the charm in Suisman’s debut comes from the town itself, a place inexplicably named after Benedict Arnold by the miscreants who founded it. Suisman’s attention to detail and the quirky details in particular—such as the abnormal climatic conditions that cause “Old Testament-style barrages of idiopathic hail several times a month, irrespective of cloud cover, temperature, or best-laid plans”—make Arnold Falls come to life. The characters add to the general air of comedy and chaos, including a talented pickpocket who’s also a talent agent and the dear old lady whose mother ran one of the town’s most popular bordellos during its red-light heyday.
The residents of Arnold Falls face very human problems—struggles with depression, caring for a friend with leukemia, and affections that arise from a disastrous first date—and Suisman paints a picture of a community where people care deeply for one another. Their schemes to save Chaplin the turkey are hilariously grand, while efforts to prevent construction of the tire factory take a more bittersweet turn. Suisman’s comedic novel will charm readers with its endearingly eccentric characters and its slice-of-life portrait of a disreputable corner of New York State.
Takeaway: This charming, funny novel is ideal for those who love small towns and eccentric local characters.
Great for fans of Jonathan Dunne’s Balloon Animals, Tom Sharpe.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A