In this funny, surprisingly tender debut novel, Hawkins tells the story of a misfit group of video-store employees whose efforts to save their beloved shop offer the reader a cast of lovable oddities and a streak of infectious adoration for the power of movies.
Waring Wax is the unhappy, unpleasant, frequently drunk owner of Star Video, a video rental store with an impressive collection of titles and oddball employees and a business that, in 2007, is slowly getting strangled by the growing presence of Blockbuster and Netflix. When a Blockbuster opens 50 yards away, the threat to Waring's livelihood and only true home turns dire. With the help of two faithful employees—the beautiful, prickly Alaura and the awkward and virginal Jeff—he sets out to save Star Video with a series of increasingly ridiculous schemes that thrust the three of them into the presence of corporate bullies, the cultlike Reality Center and a famous film director who's in town to make a movie while secretly plagued by Alfred Hitchcock’s ghost. The plot is often ridiculous and has a whiff of enthusiastic camp, but the characters have enough heart and vivid imperfections to make their story irresistibly engaging, even when they find their lives plunging toward slightly outdated small-town miseries. They careen from one encounter to another, propelled by a generous dose of nostalgia, loud humor and narrative energy, but they’re given the depth to make casually beautiful phrases ring true. “When her eyes opened, flashbulbs went off in his mind,” says the book, and it sounds exactly right.
A novel that manages to be both very funny and very sad, with an unrepentant belief in both movies and love served with a cleverness and irreverence that are difficult to resist.