2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award Winner - Gold Medal for Humor
2019 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Winner: Silver Medal for Fiction - Humor/Comedy
2019 Texas Author Project Winner: Adult Fiction
This is the story of J. D. Wiswall, a sincere young man from a small town, who joins a state government agency in a data entry department comprised of quirky clerks. Quickly endearing himself to the diverse group in Unit 3, J. D. learns his coworkers have a pact to share the $10,000 prize if they win a cost-savings program for a suggestion that could save the government money, in turn helping them rise above their own personal struggles. A multimillion-dollar cost-savings suggestion is accidentally discovered by J. D.’s supervisor, the goof-off alcoholic Brent Baker. This lucrative discovery catches the attention of crotchety Governor Dwayne Bennett, a media-hungry demagogue, who turns the coworkers of Unit 3 into props for his selfish political reasons. The publicity surrounding the clerks piques the interest of a newspaper reporter, Esther Jean Stinson, whose investigative reporting threatens to reveal the governor’s career-ending secret, as well as jeopardizes the prize that the clerks so desperately desire.
Along with J. D. and Brent, the lives of the amiable coworkers in Unit 3 are revealed. There is Rita Jackson, the kind matriarch of her large brood, who spends her time outside of work caring for her five struggling children and thirteen wily grandchildren. Then there’s Deborah Martinez, a single mother to a felonious son, who struggles to keep her head above her sinking financial woes. There’s also Conchino Gonzalez, a quiescent giant of Mexican and Japanese descent, who street races at night to relieve worries about his ailing grandfather in Japan. Finally, J. D. has dreams bigger than his small hometown can provide, and Brent wants nothing more than to drop the bureaucratic routine to become a rock star with his bar band.
A few blocks away from the agency that houses Unit 3, Governor Bennett, a smarmy politician who whizzes around the Governor’s Mansion on a gold-plated wheelchair, parades the unwitting clerks in front of the local media in an attempt to raise his sagging poll numbers. But reporter Esther Jean sees through the governor’s bald-faced motives and uncovers secrets not meant to be revealed. Will her revelations keep Unit 3 from receiving their elusive prize?
From award-winning writer Scott Semegran, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog is an American, modern-day tale with working-class folks—part fable, part satire, and part comedy—revealing that camaraderie amongst kind-hearted friends wins the day over evil intentions.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A group of state employees discover who they are and dream big in author Scott Semegran’s novel “To Squeeze A Prairie Dog: An American Novel”.
This book was very well done. A classic literary tale filled with humor and down to earth characters, readers will instantly connect to the characters that make up the book’s core group, Unit 3. The struggles and personalities of each character were both relatable and recognizable, making the story feel real and personal to the reader in a unique way. The story was not only funny in many spots, but also was a great story of greed, dreams and hope for a better tomorrow, all themes explored throughout the novel.
The novel also does a great job of exploring those in power who use everyday people to get ahead in their own personal goals. Politicians, state employers and those enchanted with greed all seek to further their own gains, but this book does a wonderful job exploring what happens when a makeshift, dysfunctional family works together and stays true to themselves to overcome the odds. The writing in this book was real, honest and funny, and did an incredible job painting a picture of these individuals and the life they led.
This is a must read for anyone who enjoys classic, American literature. A real world look into the life of state employees in the state of Texas and the everyday people who come together to make the system run smoothly was a fascinating read. Filled with humor, wit and relatable characters, there was something for everyone in this book. If you haven’t yet be sure to grab your copy of To Squeeze A Prairie Dog: An American Novel” by Scott Semegran today!
Scott Semegran uses his comic sensibility and keen eye for detail to weave an amusing yet heartwarming romp about the workers in Unit 3 of the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits and their lottery pool.
The story alternates viewpoints with everyone in the office—all cogs in the state bureaucracy—but focuses especially on J.D. Wiswall, the pecan-treat-loving, bicycle-riding, easygoing new guy. J.D. is supposed to learn the ropes from his supervisor, Brent, but Brent prefers spending time drinking and thinking about his rock band. In his quest to avoid work, he gets J.D. to tag along, albeit reluctantly.
As a result, J.D. actually learns the ropes from single mother Deborah, who is always bailing out her no-good son, and mother/matriarch Rita, who nurtures her family with banana bread and feeds her office family pineapple cakes. Another employee, Conchino, is quiet in the office, but secretly street races after hours.
The five pool money every week to buy lottery tickets. They also have a pact that if any one of them submits a winning cost-savings idea to the state workers’ contest, they’ll share that $10,000 prize, too. Sure enough, a drunken mistake by Brent wins the state prize, and a subsequent subplot involves the corrupt Governor Bennett and an enterprising, cat-loving reporter Esther Jean.
Semegran takes what could be onerously boring—state workers typing in data, sharing pecan snacks and pineapple cake—but in his able hands, their ordinary lives and struggles become captivating. His descriptions often leap off the page: “The clickity-clack of the computer keyboards of the three workers typing in the back of the small office space was like the cacophony of a chorus of cicadas.” Before book’s end, readers are pulling for every character—even the too-often-drunk Brent.
To Squeeze a Prairie Dog is an entertaining slice-of-life story that’s humorous yet uplifting at the same time. By the novel’s last page, readers will be longing for more.
— BlueInk Reviews (Starred Review)
Verdict: Scott Semegran's TO SQUEEZE A PRAIRIE DOG takes a playful and broadly comic look at local Texas government and big dreams in a book that's both fascinating and heartfelt.
The pace picks up beautifully in the second half, as some chance occurrences and accidental muckraking come together in a manner worthy of Texas politics. Characterization is strong throughout the novel; the dialogue always rings true; and little touches add local color. For example, J.D. is never without pecan treats from his beloved hometown. The conclusion is notable for all that’s changed but also what will likely stay the same.
A comic sendup of state government that remains lighthearted, deadpan, and full of affection for both urban and rural Texas.
J. D. Wiswall is the newest clerk in a pool of state government workers. He learns of competition among peers for a $10,000 prize for developing a cost-saving program to improve the government's budget and their own lives. Their developing team is on track to win, but when J. D.'s bumbling alcoholic supervisor accidentally stumbles on a multimillion-dollar cost-savings suggestion, problems begin.
Governor Bennett is a politician who will stop at nothing to stoke his ego; even if it means throwing the personal lives and quirks of his clerks into the public eye. When a snoopy reporter threatens the clerks' ability to claim a prize that will change their lives, sparks erupt in this quirky, fun spoof about ambition, success, dirty little secrets, and social and political oddballs.
The book's title, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog, already indicates that the tale will be extraordinary, and readers will quickly realize that the multifaceted account isn't just a romp through political ambition and smarmy individuals. It's about a group of oddballs with ambitions to move beyond their set financial, social, and career courses to achieve greater goals, and it pairs a healthy dose of wry humor and insights with a realistic story of interactions between very different colleagues who are thrown together to evolve to something greater than their clerical roles.
Satire and comedic observation are juxtaposed with acts of connection in a story that excels in portraying not just great ambitions, but small acts of kindness: "I wish there was something more I could do to bring joy to all of us besides cookin’,” she said. Seeing smiles on her coworkers’ faces did bring her immense joy."
From creative brainstorming over the grand prize to the things everyone feels compelled to do to get ahead, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog isn't just about sacrifice and ambition, but about the costs of success and the challenges of remaining creatively quirky in a world replete with economic, social and political challenges and goal-seekers.
Fun, ironic acronyms and jokes illustrate real efforts to bond, support one another, and survive against secrets and revelations about how the world really operates. To Squeeze a Prairie Dog paints a rollicking story that careens through the office structure to delve into the motivations, lives, and connections between ordinary individuals.
Readers seeking an uplifting, fun story of fortune, friendship, and fame will find To Squeeze a Prairie Dog juxtaposes a range of viewpoints and ironic situations designed to leave readers both entertained and thoughtful. This tale comes full-circle to provide a satisfying spoof on political ambitions while commenting on personal achievement and ideals of success.
Reviewed by D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Rating: 5 Stars
To Squeeze A Prairie Dog: An American Novel is a work of literary contemporary fiction by author Scott Semegran. Melding the genres of modern day folk tale with both satire and humor, the book centers on our unlikely hero, J.D. Wiswall. Working for the state government in a data entry department, J.D. becomes aware of a cost savings program where he could obtain a share of ten thousand dollars. When a scheme is developed to help the team win, however, the idea serves as a spark that sets off everyone around the department and beyond into the wider media. A whole series of secrets and lies is unveiled, all of which threaten to stop Unit 3 claiming their original prize.
As settings go for novels, this one was pretty strange but ultimately really different and refreshing to read. Viewed as a tale of camaraderie and the secrets that other people keep, the work that Scott Semegran puts into the intricacies of his large cast of characters is very impressive. The prose flows well and the dialogue is humorous and realistic, particularly for me in the tale of the alcoholic wannabe rock star Brent Bennett who kind of stole the show. The plot certainly requires the concentration of literary fiction readers to keep track of it, particularly as more and more characters join the scene, but it all builds to an accomplished tale that’s well worth sticking with. Overall, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog is a recommended read for fans of humor, drama, and office politics.
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
Semegran is at the top of his game as he crafts this thoroughly engaging read…
Scott Semegran spins everyday lives of ordinary characters into a dramatic tale packed with wry humor, bureaucratic shenanigans, and unexpected windfalls. An accidental stumble of their boss across a multimillion-dollar cost-savings suggestion gets coworkers at a state agency a chance to win $10,000. But the solution is just the beginning of problems for the Unit 3 employee. Semegran is convincing in his portrayal of social oddballs and political ambitions and handles the crux of the book’s theme splendidly: the camaraderie of coworkers at unit 3, J.D.’s blissful small-town ignorance of the big city ways, bureaucratic confusion, political corruption, and yellow journalism. Written in a crisp, clear prose, this fast-paced novel will delight fans of literary fiction.
Rating: 5 stars
For Immediate Release:
Readers' Favorite is proud to announce that To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel by Scott Semegran won the Silver Medal in the Fiction - Humor/Comedy category.
You can learn more about Scott Semegran and To Squeeze a Prairie Dog at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/to-squeeze-a-prairie-dog, where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.
Readers' Favorite recognizes To Squeeze a Prairie Dog by Scott Semegran in its annual international book award contest, currently available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0999717383.
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