Book Review: One D.O.A., One on the Way

One of my favorite things I used to do was go to Blockbuster (yes!) and search for what I hoped were “hidden gems.” That is, grab a movie I didn’t recognize off of the shelf, typically in the horror movie section, and watch it, hoping I found a hidden gem. Sometimes I did, sometimes it was so bad it was good, and sometimes it was just bad.

Well, that’s sort of what I did here with One D.O.A., One on the Way by Mary Robison. I have nearly 800 books in my room, and after finishing I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I was trying to see what to read next. Admittedly, reading the back of the cover, it didn’t seem like my kind of book, but I liked the Louisiana setting.

And whelp, it turned out to be right in my wheelhouse, and dare I say, a “hidden gem.” I loved it, and it’s one of those books this year I finished in one sitting virtually. Which, it’s easy to do with this one because it’s short (about 176 pages) and minimalist. It’s so different, so unique, so wholly Mary Robison’s creation. I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for something off-kilter.

As you’ll see in my review below, I apparently love movie browsing analogies, and I find it rather amusing that in my Goodreads review, I used the analogy to the entity that replaced Blockbuster. That’s purely coincidence.

Review below. No spoilers ahead.

Whelp. I love when this happens: You ever find yourself endless browsing Netflix’s unending catalog for something to watch? Nothing is landing quite right in your mind; you’re just not feeling it? I was in that mode yesterday, but with the books in my room. Nearly 800 books encircle me in my room, and I picked up a few, and put them back down. Nothing was quite right.

Then I grabbed Mary Robison’s “One D.O.A. One on the Way.” And this is where the “love when this happens” comes in: I love finding an unexpected gem. This book is particularly an unexpected gem because the jacket is sneaky, hiding what the book is like (if you’re not familiar with Robison’s style, as I was not). It almost makes it seem like it’s going to be some romance/break-up type book. And it is to some degree, but not the degree to which you’re thinking.

I’m someone who fancies minimalism (you wouldn’t be able to tell that by my own writing at times), which Robison has in spades here. This is a 160-page book that’s easy to devour in one sitting. But there’s also a looseness (Eve bluntly says what’s on her mind) and a ferocity to her writing. The dialogue in particular bubbles off the page.

The New Orleans setting, awash in post-Katrina hell, is well-suited to Robison’s style and the story here. In fact, I view the jumps in the book — from the story of Eve/Adam, to Eve/Saunders, to Eve/Petal, to Eve/Lucien, to the random lists, gun-holster catalogs, private promises and post-Katrina statistics — to be similar to the way flood waters gets described in the book: a sea of gray, with debris, abandoned dogs, and brush cascading over the city, rather than people picturing perfectly blue waves coming in.

If you’re looking for something different, unexpected, and off-kilter, this is a good, short way to go. The ability to do so much with so little is awe-inspiring.

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