Saturday, September 16, 2017

Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace

Let us now meet Edsel Bronfman. He's not Ed or Eddie to anyone. He's Edsel. In fact, as Charlie Brown is always called Charlie Brown, he's really more Edsel Bronfman. Two words

As a first name, Edsel is unusual, outdated, and reminiscent of the automobile that was such a spectacular failure. Bronfman sounds like a muffled tubercular sneeze. The shoe fits. 

Edsel Bronfman is ordinary. Extra ordinary--two words, not one. He lives in Birmingham in a shabby apartment in a shabbier complex where his only semblance of a friend is a drug dealer Edsel distrusts. He has held the same position, a junior executive shipping manager, for ages,where he has perfect attendance and you imagine he will likely retire in, oh, 30 more years. In his free time, he looks after his free-spirited mother though she gets along just fine, thank you. His world is tiny and he keeps it that way. Edsel Bronfman doesn't live his life. He is just passin' through.  

Adventure or the potential for one arrives with a phone call. A Carla D'Angelo (how exotic-sounding!) is calling from Extraordinary Adventures to tell him he's won a free trip to Destin. The only cost is the time-share pitch meeting he must attend in order to collect. The catch is that this prize is for couples and he has 79 days to work it out or he forfeits. As you might imagine, Edsel has never been chosen for anything. He's never been anywhere. He's certainly never won anything. He's the equivalent of human wallpaper so this prize offer is a big to-do and sets in motion his adventures. 

Now you might want to write this off as a frothy beach read or trite rom com material but fortunately for us, we are in the capable hands of Daniel Wallace. Sure, it ain't War and Peace but it's not supposed to be. What we get is a funny, and very touching portrait of an extraordinarily lonely man who attempts to break out. It's as if he only now sees there is a world out there and he can actually live in it; that he deserves to do so. 

What follows is a great shambling attempt at romance and second-guessing with the impetuous Sheila McNabb. On the way, he attracts the attentions of a lovely lady cop and the drug dealers' girlfriend. Edsel is working without a net and we can't help but root for him.