Title: The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac
Author: Kris D'Agostino
Available from: Amazon
I got the Advanced Read Copy (ARC) of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
I admit, I'm confused. The synopsis of this book claims it is not only buoyantly fun but often very, very funny. There are reviews at Amazon that claim the readers were laughing hysterically, continuing the theme that this is a funny book.
If this book is funny, I'm Rip van Winkle. Maybe my sense of humor isn't warped enough. I kept waiting for humor… and waiting… and waiting. All I got was more and more depressed. I found nothing funny or even particularly witty about Calvin's “as told by” voice. I didn't laugh once. I didn't even chuckle. I'm pretty sure I didn't even smile. I cried at the end. Where's the humor?
What is funny about a 20-something who is lost and directionless, living at home, spending what little money he has on weed and more records than he'll ever listen to, while paying off a massive student loan and trying to save enough money to move back out of his parents' home? Was his father's cancer and subsequent deep depression supposed to be funny? Or his mother's juggling bills and worry over paying the mortgage and losing the house? Maybe I was supposed to find his teenage sister's pregnancy hilarious? I'm not sure. I finished this book as confused as when I started, except I was absolutely certain about one thing: this book is not funny.
There is not only no joy in this book, there's no redemption. Calvin, in my opinion, makes little or no progress towards becoming a real adult. He's still confused. Furthermore, he doesn't even have a job, which is a step back from where he was when the book started. In that respect, I found the story a failure in terms of the classic coming of age theme. I didn't feel that Calvin ever underwent any kind of significant change. He improved – minimally, in my opinion. I kept waiting for him to have an epiphany and make what, for him, would have been a real sacrifice, like selling his collection of albums. But no, he continued being a whining, shallow, entitled twit who thought he was making a big sacrifice because he paid the electric bill for his mother instead of spending the money on weed.
On the other hand, as I read this book, I kept thinking this is the kind of book that would probably be picked by the Oprah reading list. I don't mean that as a compliment – I have disliked every Oprah's list book I ever read. For my own reading purposes, a book being on Oprah's list is like the kiss of death – I will avoid it like the plague. There are probably legions of people who love those books who will love this book; maybe they'll even think it's funny.
I'm giving it a rating of 3 because there are probably people who will like this book and because it was competently written. It gets no great marks for the price, which is $9.99 for the e-book, which is at least less then the $11.16 for the paperback. My recommendation is save your money. If you want depressing family slice-of-life stories, you can get them free by making a phone call to your favorite screwup relative.