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Hard Scrabble

By: Mark “Tiger” Edmonds
Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn
Livingston Press, 2008
$15.95, Paperback

The genre of creative nonfiction, which autobiography is, usually employs the same elements of fiction, such as setting, characterization, plot, theme, and time, in order to give the reader a balanced view of what is important in the daily lives of the story’s characters. These elements also move the reader along the path of a major change of characterization, usually with plot leading the way. The “almost-all” true story, a reference to what Edmonds says about his book on the back page, would have benefited from plot as he chronicles in an almost diary writing style a description of frequent visits he made to the home of his best friend, Nancy Pacey, as she struggles with a death sentence brought on by cancer. The point of the story seems to be that a mature man and woman can have a meaningful, nonsexual relationship.

Edmonds spends the entire book making that point, along with making a couple of “sub-points,” namely that he dislikes traditional religion even though Pacey embraces it and that both of them like discussing memories of their lives.

Even without a plot and with the use of these points and sub-points, the other story elements are strong, and those readers who like a non-sentimental discussion of religion, friendship, and the importance of the daily minutiae of life will enjoy the book. Edmonds writing style is enviable: He seems to know his voice, that of an educated, well-traveled, adventure-loving rebel.

Edmonds visits Pacey almost daily throughout the waning months of her life. They mostly stay at her home and discuss religion and memories as they play long-running games of Scrabble. She drinks cola, he smokes, and he admires her smile, over and over and over. Edmonds paints a vivid but rather flat picture of his friend, but he reveals much more about himself as he tells about his love for riding a motorbike, his appreciation for Pacey’s helping him overcome alcoholism, how he enjoys his career in education, his worship of tangible objects (such as the road and his motorbike), his childhood, his family members, his other friends, and on and on and on.

Perhaps Edmonds’ lack of plot is an experimental tool, and being the rebel he portrays himself to be, he should stick to the traditional use of plot. Then, his strong voice and his excellent understanding of the other elements of storytelling will help him grow as a writer.

Anniston native Sherry Kughn is a former journalist, a feature writer for magazines, and the author of Heart Tree for Empty Nesters and Faith Flight for Empty Nesters.

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