As an avid reader, I usually have a few books going at the same time. Some evenings, I’m in the mood to cuddle up in my heated blanket and read some classic English literature in the form of a hard-cover book with an old binding and yellowed pages. I may also have a how-to book about web design open on my desk, and while waiting in a parked car for my hubby to shop, I may prefer passing the time by reading a best-selling novel on my Kindle.
My latest novel find was a quick read called, The Speed Queen, by Stewart O’Nan. I think I discovered it in one of those Oprah emails about books that shouldn’t be missed. I’m glad I opened that email.
I’m not sure what appealed to me the most: the interesting way O’Nan used the death row interview for the narrative, or the details he infused in the main character. I had a love/hate relationship with Marjorie Standiford, a young woman awaiting the death penalty for a mass murder committed at a Sonic restaurant. I’m not giving away any secrets; as the book begins, we know Marjorie is guilty, although we’re not sure if there were extenuating circumstances or if she deserves the harsh sentence.
As odd as it sounds, I really identified with the character, although not in parts of her that committed the crime, or dispassionately participated in many acts that I would find appalling. What impressed me was the way O’Nan described the alcohol and drug infused earlier parts of the character’s life, along with her attitude and temperament. Having gone through puberty in the 1970’s, I could relate with some of her illicit activities – and even her mindset. Fortunately, I outgrew that stage, but it was interesting to travel back to those times along with the character, and I enjoyed the way O’Nan played with my perceptions about Marjorie. There are no cut and dried answers about her motives, personality, guilt, or reasoning, and I liked the way the novel kept me guessing until the end.
I think this would be a great novel for a book club to discuss. I’m waiting for my husband to finish so we can compare notes about this complicated character.