BOOK REVIEW: ‘Tom and the Sagittarius’ by Brian Karre
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Local author Brian Karre now has two books to his credit. The latest is another in the vein of boy-loses-girl-because-boy-doesn’t-get-girls series. Karre’s heroes never know the right thing to say so they don’t say anything at all. They put women on pedestals and then freeze in that shadow of perfection they’ve created. Karre men are in love with the idea of being in love – and that never works unless you’re trying to sell books.
The heroines in Karre’s novellas of course mistake the lack of aggression for disinterest and buzz off to the next flower. Relationships reach a chrysalis stage before they even begin and while boy broods and pines away at his unremarkable job, only the reader knows he’s got it bad for her.
“Grow a backbone! Tell her how you feel. Get in there and fight for her!” readers scream with every turn of the page.
No, Karre’s leading men are not chin-chiseled, ab-rippled Channing Tatums with Cary Grant charm. They’re Jay Baruchel. Nice guys who fail to sweep the girl off her feet because being genuine is more important to them than winning, or even playing the game. Karre’s guys are deep thinkers. Underdogs. They don’t strut like a peacock. They wait to be noticed.
And damn, but you can’t help pulling for them.
“Tom and the Sagittarius” is a very approachable, dialogue-driven love story. It reads like a screenplay. We pick up Tom and his love interest, Leigh, a year into a stalled relationship that never really got off the ground. Karre slowly introduces the lead character, revealing an ordinary guy who is content to let life happen to him. To try too hard would be to look like a phony; and to Tom, there’s nothing worse than that.
Character development is Karre’s forte. He builds three-dimensional characters that are instantly recognizable if not likeable. There is something immediately familiar about Tom, Leigh, and the rest of the players who are fleshed out enough to shape strong attachments. Readers become effortlessly invested in Karre’s subjects and care about what happens to them – indeed, they are rooting for them in the end.
On the surface, Tom (imagine him played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a modest man moved and awed by simple things like a roadside statue of Paul Bunyan he took in with wide-eyed wonder on a childhood road trip. Peel off a few layers, though, and it’s obvious Tom struggles with life’s complexities. He’s not so simple when it comes to women because they’re not so simple. Women like Leigh (think Nikki Reed, maybe) – mysterious and gregarious with a hint of the exotic – are everything he’s not.
Without triggering a massive spoiler alert, the twist in “Tom and the Sagittarius” is Leigh’s obsession with living her life by the horoscopes. When Tom learns his co-worker is being transferred out of state, he decides to use Leigh’s interest in astrology to finally make his feelings known before she’s out of his life forever. At least that was the plan.
The story has superb pace. In the first third of the book, readers are content to relax and get to know the characters, falling into the same easy rhythm that defines Tom and Leigh’s relationship. By the middle of the book, it’s obvious Tom must confront Leigh sooner or later about his feelings. It’s eating him up inside. The last third of the story hurtles to a conclusion that will have impatient readers skipping to the last page just to see how it ends.
Dialogue is another of Karre’s strong suits. Interchanges ring true. People in Karre’s stories talk like people in real life.
“Tom and the Sagittarius” is a breeze of a read totaling just 101 pages. The story is chopped into 24 ultra-short chapters representing what would likely be scenes in a movie adaptation. Either that or Karre is paying homage to 19th century Dickens’ works like “The Pickwick Papers” which were often a collection of serial issues which ran as monthly publications.
The story is set loosely in a Rocky Mountain town never referred to by name but fashioned after Jackson Hole.
“Tom and the Sagittarius” (iUniverse) is available in all formats including eBook at Jackson Hole Book Trader or on Amazon. An earlier screenplay form of the book was a finalist in the Thunderbird Film Festival (Utah) in 2005 and a quarterfinalist in Fade In’s online screenplay competition in 2007. Visit the author online.