“”Does the Potlatch have secret agents?” I asked him one night out on the stoop after my Dad went inside. “You know like spies or hit men or something who might follow you around to make sure you don’t get out of line?” “Sure they do,” he said. “The Potlatch don’t mess around.” “So if everything you do gets screwed up and your life’s turning into a nightmare and you start to think there’s somebody stalking you…” “It’s all part of the Potlatch.””
Author: Bruce Hartman Published: 2017 Pages: 279
Potlatch is a novel which has more than one protagonist, but if I had to pick anyone as the main focus, it would be 24-year-old Alice Coggins; she is the daughter of a con artist called Ray, who is serving a life sentence under house arrest. Alice then meets Andrew, a man unhappily engaged to another woman. As the two of them begin to form a connection, the rest of the novel unfolds, mainly to do with Alice’s father, who becomes hell-bent on seeking a fortune (through completely honest means, of course.)
In all honestly, I would really struggle to give a good synopsis of this book. Part of the point of the book (I think) was hectic calamity, so I’m sure Hartman would not be offended if I said I’m not 100% what actually happened. There was so much going on, and so many characters, each with their own plot, that it was hard to keep up. You could never accuse Potlatch of being boring.
Seeing as this book is mainly a comedy, getting that right was important. I always find comedy in books a little difficult, I think it takes a lot of skill to get it right, and while this novel wasn’t my favourite, I do think Hartman succeeds in writing a funny and relatable book. The scenes were quirky and fun and, like I said earlier, very hectic, so I was always waiting for the next truckload of information or the next curve in the plot.
There was, however, a definite tone to the novel which I did not enjoy: “A young woman who seemed to consist mostly of cleavage sat in a nearby cubicle staring at her phone.” and “Her breasts (as Andrew couldn’t help noticing) were round and well-formed.” are examples of some of the descriptions of the women in the book. With descriptions such as these reoccurring every few pages, I was finding myself getting a little bored with the author’s stereotypical depiction of women. Plus, with the words “slut” and “whore” being thrown around quite a lot too, the narrative was crass to say the least.
I think what frustrated me the most was that while there were many different characters in the book, each with their own storylines, there was really no differentiation in their tone. They all morphed into the same being because they all had the same morals, attitudes, dialogue, opinions and decision-making processes. The characters did not have enough unique characteristics to make them separable and independent of each other.
While this book was successful for the most part, I really don’t think I was the right person to appreciate its wit and humour, most of which was lost on me. If a book which criticises society, and its absurd ways of functioning, in a tongue-in-cheek, comedic way is your thing, then Potlatch is the book for you. If not, then, like me, I think you’ll find it nothing more than a rollercoaster of random plot and unexciting characters.
Thank you to the author, Bruce Hartman, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.