A wheelchair-bound novice sets Nashville on fire with his insurgent campaign for Congress in this feisty election potboiler.
Hector Lawrence has been a cloistered prisoner of his Bible-thumping, miserly sister Lola ever since a boyhood bout with polio left him a paraplegic. That changes when, at the age of 49, he wrestles back his half of their inheritance. Mesmerized by journalist Walter Karp’s jeremiad, Indispensable Enemies, Hector decides that the Democratic and Republican parties are but two interchangeable vehicles of oligarchic misrule; so he launches an independent campaign for the seat of corrupt Nashville congressman Thomas Brumby. Hector’s politics are all over the map: pro-gun, pro-abortion, loves libertarian Ron Paul but opposes tax cuts for the rich, and supports Obamacare while denouncing Obama as an “assassin” for approving drone strikes. Luckily, partisan orthodoxy doesn’t matter; all of Nashville resonates with his earnest, ebullient campaigning, his pox-on-both-houses populism, his refreshing outsider-hood as a disabled nobody and his promise to consult a (nonbinding) Internet referendum before every legislative vote. Drawn into Hector’s orbit are a motley assortment of supporters and hangers-on, including a morally tarnished clergyman eager to get his mitts on Lola’s money and a good-hearted African-American pot dealer who has information on Brumby’s darkest secret. Wall’s tale has the feel of a Frank Capra movie with Southern gothic shades, starring an eccentric hero whose head gets wised up but whose good heart never flags as he battles both the sinister powers that be and his batty, bloodcurdling sister. Surrounding Hector is a diverse, sharply drawn cast of characters, from doting matrons and 30-something lonely hearts to skeevy perverts and gum-snapping teens, all brought vividly to life by the author’s well-crafted, empathetic prose. Despite its cynicism toward party establishment, Wall’s fable is positively giddy and engrossing in its portrayal of old-fashioned electioneering.
A bit hokey, but this rousing political page-turner won’t fail to entertain—maybe even inspire.