Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gerbils, the USN and the '60's and '70's...what's not to like

The Book: The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter
The Writer: Holly Robinson
The Pitch: Yes, she means gerbils in the literal sense. Through much of the book, this very unusual family moves from place to place as the dad- an active duty Navy officer- guides his family through a series of byzantine protocols for dealing with the naybs. Numero uno in his credo is: do not, under any circumstances, even hint at what he does for a living (I'd think the occasional show of uniforms would sort of give this away, but, maybe their neighbors were less well informed or less interested than 9/10th of America). What really is interesting about the family is what the aitch is going on in their garage(s). Hint: see the title. No mere dabbler in the subject of gerbils, DG Robinson becomes the world's foremost authority (save one) on gerbils, going on to create a series of articles on same and to set about monopolising the global gerbil-supply business. Against that setting play the highs and lows of frequent departures, of orders requiring turn-on-a-dime moves (including one to an abandoned ranch the Robinsons thought the locals called the 'Popper House'. Nope: it was called the Pauper House- but with a Downeast accent.), a sarcastic, brainy and prickly mom, Holly's adventurous, daring spirit, a dad never at a loss for the next strange plan to ensure prosperity, and a tragedy that puts some weight behind the odd 'hobby' DG has. Factor in the pains and pangs of always being the new kid...with the added bitter pill of having a notably 'weird' family (whom you view as perfectly average. Doesn't everyone's dad hide 20,000 gerbils in a series of sheds? And count toilet-paper sheets? And instruct the family that everything he does is to be considered eyes only, top secret?). Welcome to life at the Robinsons.
The Grading Session: 3.75 stars out of 5; photos included, cuz I know you are going to want to see what the real-life folks looked like.
Lessons Learned: Into each family a little weird must fall. The secret is to use all of that 'uniqueness' to shape your own, individual identity, future...and, maybe, to write a book...or a screenplay (right, Nicky P.?)

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