Author: Owen King
Published: March 2013 by Scribner, 419 pages
Date Read: April 2013
First Line: ”The steel-on-steel whisk of the curtain rings scraping along the rod seemed to come from the sky, and for the last seven or eight seconds of his dream, Sam Dolan found himself turning in a circle, searching for the source of the sound, but there was no one else in the vast parking lot.”
Genre/Rating: Literary fiction; 5/5 well-known indie actors brandishing a replica of Bilbo’s sword Sting purchased from SkyMall with an (ZOMG!) actual, glow-in-the-dark blade!
Review: In 2006, I found a copy of Owen King’s We’re All in This Together on the library’s New Release shelf. It was excellent. So excellent, in fact, once I finished it, I turned right around and purchased myself a copy to own (which luckily I don’t do very often, as my bookshelves are overloaded to the breaking point and there is no room in here for even one more. Not even a TINY additional bookshelf. I’ve checked. I’ve measured. NO MORE ROOM.)
I waited patiently (fine, you guys know me, I wasn’t at all patient, I stalked his author page like a creeper) to see what King would produce next, and selfishly hoped it would be a longer work – if he’d won me over so completely with his short stories (and one haunting novella), I was eager to see what he’d do with a lengthier work.
I was completely in the right to be anticipatory.
Double Feature is one of those books where you not only fall in love with the characters, you get to know them. They’re very real. Flaws-and-all real. I love characters that are just like people I’d meet in my own life. People in books are all too often either ALL GOOD or ALL BAD or they’re VERY VERY GOOD with ONE FATAL FLAW or they’re just A METAPHOR FOR SOMETHING ELSE or what have you, and that gets tiresome, because real live people walking around on the earth, just trying their hardest to not screw it up too badly? We’re not all good, or all bad, or a metaphor for anything. We’re a gray area. We sometimes spectacularly mess things up, to the point of not being able to fix them. We sometimes are capable of great things. And we sometimes stagnate and just go about our day-to-day and go to work and live our lives and try really hard to keep our heads above water. That’s what real people do. And that’s what the people in this book do, and oh, did I love them for it.
Sam Dolan is a young, optimistic filmmaker when we first meet him, working on his very first production: an indie piece called Who We Are. His father is Booth Dolan, an over-the-top B-movie actor who Sam has never felt close to. His mother, Allie, has recently passed away and Sam hasn’t gotten over it yet. And then something happens with his movie, and I can’t tell you what it is, because the reveal of that was so brilliantly written that I actually half-covered my face and said, “Oh. Oh, no, oh, shit, no, really? SHIT.” And may have laughed a little, because that’s what you do when something is really, really uncomfortable. (Well, it’s what I do, anyway.)
The book moves between times; to Sam’s childhood, to years after the movie situation. We meet the players in Sam’s life: his roommate Wesley, who writes a review blog for things people send him and refuses to leave the house; his ex-girlfriend Polly who hasn’t quite settled into the ex role yet and her burly Germanic baseball-player husband Jo-Jo; Sam’s bitterly brilliant half-sister Mina; his godfather Tom, who can’t stop building rooms onto his sprawling house, even though he lives there alone; and Tess, the television producer who might just be a match for Sam’s tendency to run away from anything resembling a commitment.
These people are real, and flawed, and fantastic. You want to invite them over for dinner (and maybe hide the knives before they arrive.) You want to spend time with them, talking to them and getting to know them and laughing with them and being a part of their lives. There’s a feel of Irving to these people; that same lovable misfit quality, that same fierce love you feel for them when you get to know them. The book is also very intelligent, very witty, and very wise. And at one point there’s a little poetry, and you know how that wins me over, right? (Spoiler alert in case you don’t know: it does. It very much does.)
I sped through the book this week, because I wanted to know what happened. But that meant it was going to end. And I didn’t want it to end. So I was torn between wanting to finish and never, ever wanting to finish. I suppose there are worse things to happen in the world; I just know turning the last page made me very melancholy, because it was done.
I’m lucky enough to be going to see the author read from the book tomorrow night and will be getting my (sadly, water-damaged, as I was caught in a rainstorm last week with it, stupid rainstorm) copy of the book signed tomorrow night. The characters get to live on for one more day for me, in the author’s voice, no less. I have no complaints about that. I’ll be glad to meet up with them again.