An incongruent clan of bohemians, button-downs and a farmer implodes after the deferment of an estate sale, forcing their ostracized leader to prove that principles and family trump money despite follies that suggest the contrary.
“Rattle” is a novel by JP Paul. The author of Crack/ed, Only Indigo, Scenes Below the Curb, Take the Dance and compelling short works comes out swinging in a feisty, well-paced dramedy centered upon the extended Proctar family.
Two distinct plot lines (one based in Florida, the other in Jamaica) intertwine as the protagonists romp through an emotional ride of conflicting family priorities and ominous confrontations. One community is engulfed by a corporate expansion, the other threatened by the local gang's druglord. Polarized takeovers are surprisingly similar.
Paul's street cred as an international journalist lends integrity to the backbone of this novel. Its voices are those of an observant person who walked the tough yards, immersing himself with real people often far beyond one's comfort zone. His fictional characters are neither heroes nor villians but imperfectly plausible. They often puzzle and always push. Sociocultural anecdotes expose dilemmas due to incompatibility. They in turn spark disparate reactions that ignite the flames. While some situations disturb, they are managed with sensitivity and, in many cases, with appropriate humor.
Goodwill often comes from people and circumstances when we least expect it. Indeed, it is best to leave one's preconceptions on the night table when reading Rattle. Tension is perpetuated as the protagonists' desires collide, especially where compromise is not an option and logical solutions are rarely chosen. Rattle explores the decisions we make through all stages of life only to be confronted with unfolding realities that force us to negotiate additional discordant tangents. Rattle hints of frustration that may remind some of Claire Messud's Woman Upstairs or Thomas Bernhard's Loser. Procrastinators neither win nor lose, they are simply cast aside, discarded abruptly in a startling depiction of the unforgiving pace of 21st century society.
Rattle brims with sub-themes including corporate skullduggery, the opaque and unregulated fine art market, colonial caste systems, global education failures and ecological nightmares. Themes matter to the author, but they never become ominpresent to stife an entertaining story. They should be considered but never become roadblocks to deter the reader from the plot. You can breeze through this story in a sitting or three. Such is a story that is snappy and concise, a well-written quick meal from the artesanal deli. But there is so much more for the astute reader, a multi-course dinner to be digested slowly with a variety of complex flavors simmering below the surface. Therein lies the mastery of this book. The writer grants the reader choices. One can drill down for more details to savor the double entendres and turns of phrase. Or not.
The intrigue of reading Rattle lies in the matrice of dichotomies JP Paul constructs in all of his work. The twin plot lines rattle against one another but are indeed just one. The dualing voices become crystal clear midway through the book. One is brash, confident with a controlled wit that never stoops to mere cynicism. The other is reserved and concerned, pondering emotions without the shallow sap of cheap romance. Nothing is black and white for JP Paul. Rattle is not a grand statement piece ala Norma Klien or Chris Hitchens. Like all of his work, he offers an open door for conversation, a window from which to to gather seeds. The humor is sharp, not slapstick. The suspense is geniune, not contrived. A fluid page turner, Rattle is written in a contemporary, conversational style that at times reads poetic, others rawly emotive. Rarely are novels able to appease both the commercial and literary camps so effectively as JP Paul's Rattle.
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