Book Review: Pocketful of Names
By Dawn M. Hamsher
I read Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer for three reasons. 1. It was on Holly Lisle’s list of “396 Resources Writers Recommend to Kickstart Your Writing…”. 2. The title sounded interesting. 3. Reviews on the net raved about the author’s use of setting [Maine] and since I had vacationed there, I was eager to read the author’s description and compare it to my own memories.
First, I want to say that this is not the type of book I usually read. The novel is about a woman who lives alone on an island. That sounded boring, but I was willing to try it and see what I could learn from the author.
The prologue did not impress me. It tried so hard to describe the thoughts of a half-drowned dog that it was unbelievable. Past that though, I was pleasantly surprised. The author’s use of setting was authentic. I could picture the rocky shore, the fishing boats, the smell of bait used in lobster traps. The author handles New England culture as well as the mechanics of commercial fishing with the ease of familiarity (or fakes it due to thorough research).
The characters, even better than the setting, have excellent physical descriptions and mannerisms, but it’s their memories and stories that are pure genius. The author goes deep into the characters, revealing their past hurts, mistakes, and flaws to create very believable individuals.
Though, I liked the book, there were a few things that bothered me.
- The book had no chapters. Instead, new thoughts were separated by page breaks. I struggled to find good stopping places.
- I had trouble following dialog. The author does not often specify who is speaking in conversation.
- Morally, I didn’t like the characters’ anti-Christian sentiments, the use of the Lord’s name in vain, and topics like premarital sex and unwed pregnancy.
But aside from these things, the book was very enjoyable. I loved the basic story and ending. The small twists and mysteries were an added bonus that kept me guessing. I didn't want to put the book down. I would recommend Pocketful of Names (with the moral warning) and rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
Favorite lines from the book:
“Their bodies [whales] were dark gray, black, blue black, the color of storm clouds.”
“She slid into her room like a drawer into a desk.”
"She could hear Arno snoring in the room above, a soft kind of flutter that reminded her of someone slowly buttering toast."
(Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer, Graywolf Press, Saint Paul Minnesota, 2005)