May 16, 2009
**** 4 stars — Memorable Quirky Character Reminds Us of What’s Good in Life
Sam Moffie’s third novel, “No Mad,” is unlike most novels I’ve read because its main character, Aaron Abrams, is uniquely human, slightly flawed, enduringly quirky, and someone who greatly enjoys his own sense of humor. That sense of humor carries the book through a cast of bizarre characters, some shocking events, and ultimately to a relatively happy ending. The title, “No Mad,” refers both to a phrase Aaron’s daughter would say while a toddler and also Aaron becoming a type of “nomad,” a modern-day proverbial Wandering Jew, as he travels across America, interviewing his former college classmates to gather information for a book he is writing.
Aaron’s nomadic journey begins with two great shocks in his life. The first is when his agent, Jane Wang, calls him on his cell phone while he’s at the grocery store to say she has a check for a hundred thousand dollars for him because a publisher has accepted his book for publication. Excited to tell everyone, Aaron calls both his brother and wife, but he is unable to reach either. He then goes home, only to see them together in the swimming pool, fornicating. Before his wife and brother realize Aaron is home, he gathers his necessary belongings, including his dog, and puts them in the car. Then after dumping a bucket of ice, water and his wedding ring on his brother and wife, he hightails it out of the house and heads for New York to meet his agent.
Most books would explore the main character’s emotions and the messy divorce that follows, but the author Sam Moffie has better things to do with this book. Yes, Aaron is hurt, but he isn’t going to let that stop him from researching his book, loving his adult children, or enjoying himself. While I was surprised Aaron did not spend more time thinking about getting divorced or how his wife and brother behaved, as I grew to know Aaron, I came to admire his mature ability not to focus on the negative. He talks to his children on the phone throughout his journeys, but never to his wife or brother. Only at the book’s end, when his daughter gets married, does Aaron’s wife try to speak to him and then he refuses. He is not a man to let someone else try to manipulate him, and he has nothing to talk to his wife about—it won’t change the past, so why let her guilt interrupt his fun. I rather admired Aaron’s stoic attitude.
“No Mad” is not really about a man whose wife cheats on him. It’s about a man writing a book and the adventures he experiences along the way. Aaron plans to call his book “Yearbook,” and it will be a collection of interviews with his former college classmates about where they are now. Tracking down his classmates leads Aaron across America, from New York to Boston, then Gettysburg, to Roswell, New Mexico, and finally to the Crazy Horse Monument. This Jewish, middle-aged, Ohio born man shares his views on life—views often politically incorrect, but nevertheless humorous, satirical, and insightful. The reader will smile, even laugh out loud, over Aaron’s comments about the modern-day tattoo craze, the craziness of a town named for Custer, slaughterer of Native Americans, and the odd people he meets.
While women may find Aaron’s quirky humor makes him cute and charming, I think male readers will most enjoy this book. Aaron does have a tendency for some crude humor—especially of the bathroom variety. He spends a great deal of his time reading in the bathroom, and I loved his idea that he should always leave his books in the bathroom as a way to promote them to visitors. His male viewpoints of women—surprisingly, he finds several willing to sleep with him because he’s a famous writer—are typical but humorous to men, and he can be forgiven for having a little fun after what his wife did to him.
I most appreciated Aaron’s political commentaries on America. He expresses distrust in the United States government, as revealed during the cover-up stories he hears about alien spaceships at Roswell, New Mexico. After meeting a corrupt Boston politician, George Ballard, he plans to encourage his students to start a revolution against what American is turning into by having them read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” and I appreciated a scene being placed at the Crazy Horse Monument that provides equal attention to Native American history along with Mount Rushmore.
A rich cast of supporting characters fills “No Mad,” from Aaron’s three adult children, to his agent, her assistant whom Aaron develops a relationship with, a pot-smoking cop named Smyth (spelled with a y not an i), a young would-be poet who introduces Aaron to Viagra, a man who built nuclear weapons but left his government job to work on the Crazy Horse monument, and a stockbroker who left everything behind to lead tours at Gettysburg.
If you’re not going to take a summer vacation this year, “No Mad” will show you much of America from a new perspective, and you couldn’t have a more enjoyable tour guide than Aaron Abrams. Plus, you’ll learn how to play Jinx and License Plate Poker along the way.
Readers agree this book is one fun ride, as evidenced by “No Mad” just being named a finalist in humor for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. For more information about “No Mad” and Sam Moffie’s other novels, visit www.samstories.com
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives
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