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Little Hands Clapping, by Dan Rhodes

1 rating: 5.0
a macabre novel beyond the mundanity of it all
1 review about Little Hands Clapping, by Dan Rhodes

definitely not your average, run of the mill novels

  • Feb 15, 2010
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If you read this book based solely on my recommendation (which you should not do), I don't want you coming back to me if you hate it and saying something like "you are one sick puppy." To be really blunt, I tend to march to a different drummer in life as it is, and I gravitate toward the quirky and the offbeat when it's put out there.

On the surface, this book is gruesome and at times a bit sick, but if you want a book that's highly  original, one that offers something you'll probably never read the likes of again, then this one's for you.  It will probably appeal to minds like mine...a little off-kilter and prone towards the quirkiness of life.  And actually, what's really funny is that in the author's world, all of this stuff could have actually happened.  Sick, but at the same time often funny, with a story to tell, Little Hands Clapping is one of the best books I've read in a while.I've never read any other books by this author, but I see more on my library shelves from him in the future.

On the surface, this book reads somewhat like a bizarre set of interconnected fairy tales, and once you start reading you are hooked.  Somewhere in Germany, a woman known only as Mrs. Pavarotti (not her real name, but so-called because her husband has an uncanny resemblance to the real opera star), has created a museum whose intended visitors are those who are in deep pain, possibly contemplating suicide. The exhibits, which are funny but not really (actually, they're kind of sad, but you can't help laughing even when you know you shouldn't)  have a purpose: to try to get these lost souls  to change their minds and embrace life.  Mrs. Pavarotti herself went through some anguish in life, and she can't stand the thought of unhappiness and pain.  She hired a caretaker only known as Herr Schmidt, who embraces nothingness. He hates human companionship and just wants to be left alone, his one pleasure in life the cake brought by Mrs. P. every time she comes to visit.  Herr Schmidt often finds the need to call on one of the local GPs, a Dr. Frohliche with whom he shares a secret that the rest of the town is probably not ready to hear about.  The doctor, who is loved by his regular patients, does what he considers his penance by doling out money to charity.  Interwoven with this story is the sad story of two beautiful young people whom the stars destined for each other early in life.

It's simplistic, but not simple. The author is gifted -- he can turn your stomach while at the same time making you laugh by going off on some rather bizarre tangents. He has no shame sometimes, and the humor tends to lighten some of the darkness of the novel, but at the same time feeds into it. You will laugh in spite of yourself. He takes small-town, inglorious and mundane lives and makes them interesting to the point that he leaves you wanting more.  The writing is not a clear linear narrative, going backward and forward through time, but still very easy to follow.  It's like a modern Brothers Grimm on steroids.

If you have a quirky outlook on life, or if you like really dark humor which has a purpose, or even if you just want something new and well, refreshingly different, then you are going to love this book. You have to just let yourself go while you read this, because of the gruesome and often gross subject matter, but in the end, it's absolutely exquisite. To those readers, I can highly recommend this book. But this novel is not for the faint of heart, or for those who can't or won't see humor in even the bleakest of situations. 
definitely not your average, run of the mill novels

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