The Big Door Prize

M.O. Walsh. Putnam, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1848-2
Walsh (My Sunshine Away) skirts the edge of fantasy in this playful and touching tale set in small-town Deerfield, La. After a mysterious, photo booth–size machine called the DNAMIX appears at the town’s grocery store, word of its supposed powers of prognostication spreads rapidly. Customers are instructed to swab the inside of their cheek, and a readout will appear telling them what “your body and mind are capable of doing.” Many of the townspeople indulge, including high school history teacher and aspiring trombonist Douglas and his wistful homemaker wife, Cherilyn. Meanwhile, introverted 16-year-old Jacob, recovering from the recent death of his twin brother, Toby, in a car accident, is manipulated by Toby’s ex-girlfriend Trina, who blames the whole school for Toby’s death and wants revenge. As Jacob worries he’ll be roped into Trina’s violent revenge plan, Douglas and Cherilyn’s “happy and uncomplicated marriage” begins to fall apart after Douglas, whose DNAMIX readout offers no surprises (“Whistler. Teacher”) discovers Cherilyn’s, which indicates her “life station” will be “royalty.” Walsh follows these characters with humor and compassion, leading them to an ending readers will find surprising and satisfying. The novel transcends its quirky premise, offering many insights on the mysteries of the human heart. Agent: Renee Zuckerbrot, Massie & McQuilkin Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/30/2020
Release date: 09/08/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-7352-1849-9
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-593-28606-7
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