Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Review: "Making Nice" by Matt Sumell
While veering toward the unpleasant yet never quite touching it, it is hard not to see the main character at the center of Making Nice, author Matt Sumell’s debut collection of linked stories, as anything more than a menace that is a danger to those around him and himself. It takes moments from this man’s life, and tries to make the proceedings cute and quirky with a tone that will leave a bad taste in the mouths of many readers. The stories can be funny, but that humor overtakes the book so even the sad moments have one too many jokes placed in them. It is even entertaining at points, as we follow this man from one mistake to the next as he tries to “make nice”, but I found the lack of honesty about the subjects discussed and the character’s failure to understand their circumstances an ill fit for such a book. For the sack of my reading guidelines, I labeled this book a collection of short stories, but they are really just linked vignettes that follow one guy, Alby, soon after the death of his mother. He is a violent man, but a passionate one as well, quick to use his fists, but very empathetic toward the downtrodden, such as his ailing Grandmother and an injured bird he nurses back to health. But when he is not at rest, he is fighting strangers, loafing about on his boat, and sexually using countless numbers of women. I found it hard to have sympathy for this guy, who revels in his own ignorance, an act in which the writer is guilty of as well. Even when Alby’s father, a loafer, is on the verge of death and he tries to cheer him up in a rather tacky way, this book, as well as the tornado at its center, kept me at a cold distance throughout its 219 pages.