|Andre West: Gypsy Pie|
( Paperback) ISBN 0-7443-0274-9
Debra lives the life of a gun-toting juvenile delinquent with a chip on her shoulder. She commits petty crimes, beats up individuals, and when really miffed, shoots them.
Debra's motivation for the tough-gal act? Her old-world Italian mother hobnobs with socialites and makes the family live on the right side of the tracks! Debra's blue-collar father loves his wife despite her social climbing, which he disdains. Debra believes only Dad understands her. Although law-abiding himself, Dad lets Debra run wild.
Admittedly, the plot calls for a protagonist with a strong sense of self-survival. Gypsy Pie recounts the archetypal hero's pilgrimage with the sacred object to destroy the supreme evil being and save the world from destruction. West also employs the "buddy" story -- two opposites whom circumstance force to work together and learn to understand and accept each other.
One fateful night, bad-girl Debra teams up with good-girl Renee Kenner, the daughter of a rich and elite African-American family, to escape death. Their flight leads them not home but to Rhondil, a world facing annihilation by Kronos, the evil one. Kronos leads the zoophagi, vampires who gobble up their victims. Unfortunately, if Kronos destroys Rhondil, he eventually wipes out our world. Rhondil spiritual leaders hail Debra and Renee as the saviors from the West of whom the prophets foretold.
Renee proves more sympathetic than Debra. Although homesick, she embraces Rhondil and its people. Although scared, she dedicates herself to the cause. Renee attempts to bond with Debra, who considers Renee a wimp and rejects every friendly overture. Debra never discards her "looking-out-for-number-one" values and mean-spirited attitude.
West's Rhondil characters never rise above stereotypes -- the wise holy man, the beautiful queen, faithful handmaiden and handsome knight. West attempts to incorporate Lewis Carroll into the story as a time traveler who visits Rhondil and leaves with a sacred object, which brings the girls to the besieged world. But West fails to integrate Carroll into the story. West pays homage to Tolkien, making him a prophet in Rhondil. Yet, West creates "Hobbiton," a nasty little double-crossing dwarf with "beady little brown eyes." The Hobbits should sue for character assassination.
Other problems throughout the novel include dialogue and continuity. Concerning the former, the residents of Rhondil, ostensibly a medieval world, speak modern and "old-fashioned" English. This linguistic mix jolts the reader. Other dialogue sounds forced. As for continuity, in one paragraph Debra cooks pancakes and eggs, but three paragraphs later the girls eat fried eggs and toast. Misspellings and typographical errors abound.
The journey to overcome the seemingly impossible challenge constitutes an archetypal path to enlightenment. West, however, never convinces the reader that Debra achieves the insight necessary to change her destructive nature.
Lynn I. Miller
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