JACK NICHOLSON by Calum  Cumming

JACK NICHOLSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two young lovers—a Scotsman and an American—move to Oregon to start a life together in this novel.

In the early 1990s, Jim Cumming and Lou MacLeod, 28 and 22, respectively, meet in Glasgow, fall in love, and decide to move to the U.S. Jim is a Scottish civil engineer, hoping to find work soon in America, and Lou is an Oregonian with an M.A. in the humanities. They fly to Portland to stay with Lou’s family in Eugene for a bit as they get settled. The couple plan to stick around with the clan for the holidays and then embark on a road trip through California into Mexico. In Eugene, they befriend Lou’s cousin Jack, “the richest old” hippie in Oregon. Jim and Lou’s marriage is briefly tested when she encounters old flame Matt Gere. But she ultimately returns to Jim, and in the New Year they drive to Mexico. Along the way, they meet Running Wolf, a Native American struggling off the reservation. They ask Jack to help Running Wolf get work in Eugene as well as return him to his wife, Red Shield, who has been put in a mental institution. Jim and Lou drive through California, spending time with friends along the route, including a harrowing trip to Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King riots. In Mexico, they share an illuminating vacation, exploring and expanding their relationship before they begin again in Oregon. The ambitious tale features rich details about the appealing couple’s travels and a diverse cast of characters. But the plotting, as handled by Cumming (Pieces of You, 2016), is haphazard and jumps around frequently; there are multiple threads introduced throughout the story that do not come to anything. Characters are often introduced with no context and are just as quickly discarded, making the story somewhat hard to follow. Besides Lou’s brief reunion with Matt, the novel lacks conflict; mostly, Jim and Lou have fine experiences, and the more ominous plot strands never come to fruition. In addition, some errors throughout—typos like “dessert” for “desert”—can make for a disorienting read.

A fragmented, off-kilter romance that never quite coheres.

Pub Date: March 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4918-9225-1
Page count: 156pp
Publisher: AuthorHouseUK
Program: Kirkus Indie
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