Amp’d by Ken Pisani
Read: February 2 – 19, 2017
Format: Paperback ARC
My Book Rating: 4 Stars
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Reading Challenge(s): TBR 2017, Beat The Backlist 2017
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Complete with painfully wry observations and delightfully caustic wit, this novel is a gritty exploration of what it’s like to feel incomplete in the world. All five fingers up for this bitterly satisfying tale.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Aaron is not a man on a hero’s journey. In the question of fight or flight, he’ll choose flight every time. So when a car accident leaves him suddenly asymmetrical, his left arm amputated, looking on the bright side just isn’t something he’s equipped to do.
Forced to return to his boyhood home to recuperate, Aaron is confronted with an aging father (a former Olympic biathlete turned hoarder), a mother whose chosen to live in a yurt with a fireman twelve years her junior, and a well-meaning sister whose insufferable husband proves love isn’t just blind, but also painfully stupid.
As Aaron tries to make the world around him disappear in a haze of Vicodin and medical marijuana, the only true joy in his life comes from daily ninety-second radio spots of fun science facts: the speed of falling raindrops, batteries made out of starfish, and sexual responses triggered by ringtones – all told in the lush, disembodied voice of commentator Sunny Lee, with whom he falls helplessly, ridiculously, in love. Aaron’s obsession with Sunny only hastens his downward spiral, like pouring accelerant on a fire. Pressured to do something – anything – to move his life forward, he takes the only job he can get. As a “fish counter” at the nearby dam, he concludes that an act of violent sacrifice to liberate the river might be his best, final option.
I received a copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads.
Some of the books I win from Goodreads get relegated to the DNF pile so quickly they don’t even get reviews. This is not one of those books.
Amp’d by Ken Pisani is a real treat. Take one 40 year old man, recently sans-one arm, force him to move home to live with his dad (who may have a mild hoarding problem) and his pet alligator (who lives in the bathtub) and you’ve got a recipe for hilarity.
I’ll admit, the beginning of this book felt a little too literary for me, but I chuckled a few times so I kept with it. Soon enough I’d completely fallen in love with this story. I had no clue where the plot was going until the very end, but I was eager to read more about what was going to happen to Aaron next. Everything was so over the top and cartoonish it was hard not to love it. There’s a lot of drug humor, and I’m so not a drug humor kind of person, but these characters are just so charming. Besides, it was just medical Marijuana.
Honestly, this is the kind of book I have a hard time reviewing. A lot of things happen. Most of it was funny. Maybe not fall over crying with tears funny, but consistently garnering chuckles funny. I mean, Aaron befriends a little boy with cancer, who he refers to as Cancer Boy in the narrative. He gets a job counting fish. Yes. Counting fish. I refuse to expand upon this, you need to read the book to find out more. He has a friggen alligator living in his house!
That’s not to say the book doesn’t have any heart. There is quite a bit of emotion at the end. I didn’t cry, but the story literally came full circle and left me with a solid sense of closure that I feared I wouldn’t get from a book like this.
I’m glad I read this book. And I know this review is pretty abysmal, but I highly encourage those who enjoy humorous tales to read this as well. Amp’d is a hidden gem.
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If this were a book you’d know that the guy you meet on page 1, shattered and mutilated and staring into the abyss, would by the end of the story transcend his terrible circumstances to become a better man. But this isn’t a book, this is just me talking… and I’m not the guy who beats the odds and overcomes adversity; I’m the guy who wakes up in the hospital to find out his arm has been amputated and says, Fuck me.
“There’s an alligator in your bathtub.”
“I thought you knew.”
“If I did, I’d forgotten.”
“This is why I worry about you, honey. When things are bad, you pour accelerant on them.”
That’s how Dad finds us on his return, both picking our noses in his kitchen, his bottle of Fleischmann’s a guilty accomplice.
“Right,” he finally says. “There never was anything to do in this town.”
“What are you doing now?”
“See? I just learned a sentence: Kway-UR yin-UH chee. Happy baby eat. Or it could be Eat happy baby. Yes, that’s better! The next time I see a happy Chinese baby, I can tell his parents to eat him.”
Her glare wilts, no match for my status as object of pity, an awesome power I should probably use for good, not evil, but know I’m going to milk like dairy farmer.
“If there was a future in bullshit, Aaron,” she says, “you’d be unstoppable.”
“I don’t remember what you wanted to be when you grew up—”
“Pretty sure it was a guy with two arms.”
As any hockey player could tell you, it’s harder to score after repeated blows to the head, rendering future offspring unlikely.