Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review: "Ride Around Shining" by Chris Leslie-Hynan

Ride Around Shining, the debut novel by Chris Leslie-Hynan, easily has the best premise of any new book that has come out this year, even for ones that I have loved and raved about. It has a lot of promise, and the hands of a writer who was willing and unafraid to delve deep into the controversial idea presented and ask the uncomfortable questions this idea presents, you’d have one of the most daring and original books on race written in years. But ultimately, this book seems more focused on this weird culture it presents, which it does so in a way that comes off as corny and more than a little farfetched. Hynan, despite creating a truly fascinating narrator, that is equal part Iago, Nick Carraway and Thomas Ripley, he takes this story in absurd directions that are unbelievable at times, even if they are interesting and humorous. The narrator is a man named Jess, adrift, like many young men today, after spending all his money on a Master’s degree, figuring out too late that it isn’t going to get him very far. He lies his way into a job being the driver for Calyph West, a forward for the Portland Trail Blazers, and his beautiful white wife, Antonia, and through a series of strange events, sets himself up as their perverted spiritual advisor when their marriage begins to fail. Jess is an angry man, but his anger seems justified at points. He has lived a life of strife and disappointment, but it isn’t the kind that can lead to greatness. He feels left out, and through him, Hynan could have asked some tough racial questions about who black and white people view each other when there is a power gap. But instead, he focuses more on the weird lifestyles of these ballplayers, where masquerade parties, kinky sex and degradation are the norm. It sounds interesting, but it takes away from the true power of the story. Hynan is skilled, to say the least, the characterization of Jess is evidence, I just wish he worked this golden idea into a better story with his skills.

Rating: 4/5

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