Today, we kick off the first in our book club blogs on Lottery by Patricia Wood As this is a book discussion that, I hope, will delve intricately into the plot and themes, I want to warn you all ahead of time. If spoilers are the type of thing that will keep you from reading a book, please pick up a copy and read this one first, and then come back and visit if you like – this isn’t a book you want to miss and hearing what readers thought won’t replace the experience. If in depth discussion ahead of time doesn’t ruin the reading experience for you, grab your coffee and hang out a bit... oh, yeah, I think I’m serving cyber wine, cheese, and crackers... and away we go!!!
For me, narrowing down the discussion topic to one thing was harder than it looked back when I finished the book. The writing is simple and forthright, and deceptively full of insight. The first thing that I’d like to touch on is perception of success. I think the idea of both monetary success and mental acuity are both given poignant precedence through the eyes of Perry.
In Perry L. Crandall, we have a main character with an IQ of 76. This number has defined him for most of his life, both in his own thoughts and by the outside world. To Perry, that number is proof positive that his is not retarded. To his brother cousins, teachers growing up, and school mates it is an indication that Perry is not as smart as they are or not able to function in their world.
Perry and his Gram are simple people. It’s quite clear that they are not well off financially, but it’s just as clear that they are happy with what they have. There are a lot of characters to like in this book, and I do love Perry, but Gram is by far my favorite even though she dies early in the book, a death which is really the catalyst to Perry’s own independence, her presence is still felt throughout in Perry’s recollection and in his own mode of living his life. Through Gram we see a no nonsense voice that, for all of her gruff insight, is the marker by which Perry learns to distinguish moral character. Throughout his life, she’s built routines that are geared so that he will be able to function without her when she’s gone. She has also, we find, held a good deal of information to herself, such as the reason for their loss of Gramp’s business. I like to think she took these heartaches internally, so Perry wouldn’t be burdened with them. Still, she did not bury it like it didn’t happen; she helped Perry to make lists, so that he would be guarded in some way against the people who might take advantage:
“...There are people you listen to, and others you don’t. You have to be able to tell the difference.” Gram slaps the kitchen table hard with her hand and makes me jump.
“Like who?” I ask.
We make a list.”
We find a distinct difference between the way Perry is treated before his Lottery winnings and after. The possible exception to this being Keith and Cherry. Gary, his boss at Holsted’s, is distinguished early as a person of character and one Perry can trust (he made the list). But even Gary learns a bit more about Perry and starts to see him in a different way; as an asset to the business. However, in this case I view the change as more in line with Perry’s own growth as a person rather than society’s view of him once he has a fortune.
I love the way the time old moral lesson of worth being determined by more than your bank balance comes into play in this novel. We become familiar with relatives who would gladly take everything Perry has without a second thought.
The characters of John, David, their wives and Perry’s own mother, who he calls Louise, are a firm contrast to Perry’s moral fortitude. These characters have all of the financial trappings that society holds in esteem. They are professionals whose mental prowess far surpasses that of Perry, and they each hold these facts as evidence that they are superior to him... So superior, in fact, they do not even claim him as family unless they need to take something from him. While this is infuriating to the reader, it also serves to bolster our own sense of right and wrong.
Yes, these characters have the money and professional resume. Yet, they are constantly miserable, nasty creatures. And, we find as we examine their lives a little more intently, even with their vast earnings they are in debt. They look down on Perry, but Perry has a better life and it’s not because ‘ignorance is bliss’ it’s because Perry puts the priority on being a good friend and a good person and doing his best.
I’m going to turn the discussion over to you now. I’m not sure what the next theme will be that I cover, but there will be a second posting in the next few days, after the readers have had a chance to comment and move the discussion forward.
What did you think of the portrayal of these characters in deference to their perception of success? Who did you find the most fascinating? Who did you find the most despicable? What in this book resonated with your experiences in life?