Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Freebie: The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. by Jacques Strauss

Congratulations to the two winners of this past week's book giveaways for Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.  Jim Carmin won a copy of the hardcover edition of the novel; Alice Cullina won the audiobook version.

This week, I'm giving away a copy of The Dubious Salvation of Jack V., the debut novel by South African novelist Jacques Strauss.  I've already given you a taste of the book's delights, now you can find out for yourself what the fuss is all about by reading the whole shebang.  Strauss has one of the handsomest websites of any author I've seen lately and it's full of the self-deprecating wit you'll find in the pages of his novel (gotta love a guy who illustrates his "Contact Me" section with a drawing of himself talking to Darth Vader via tin cans and string).  Here's how he describes the plot of The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.:
Jack Viljee's hometown of Johannesburg is still divided by apartheid, though the old order is starting to crumble. According to eleven-year-old Jack, the world is a rational and simple place. But if life doesn't conform to Jack's expectations of it, there is always the sympathy and approval of the family's maid to console him. Not that Susie is a pushover. She believes violence, of the non-disfiguring variety, is a healthy form of affection, hence her not infrequent expression, "Jack, I love you so much. I will hit you." Jack himself is not above socking his best friend in the eye or scamming his little sister into picking up the dog mess. The Viljee household, in its small way, mirrors the politics of the country. This noisy domesticity is upset by the arrival of Susie's fifteen-year-old son. Percy is bored, idle, and full of rage. When Percy catches Jack in an indelibly shameful moment, Jack learns that the smallest act of revenge has consequences beyond his imagining. The world, it turns out, is not so simple.
There's a great review of the book at the Asylum blog, which notes:
The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. almost challenges the reader to put it down before opening it, with its irksome title, equal parts quirk and mock-retro. In fact it makes reference to a trilogy of novels by Afrikaans writer Etienne Leroux, but to the reader coming to it cold, such an idiosyncratic title can seem like the literary equivalent of a novelty tie, worn in order to fake a personality that is otherwise absent. (The jaunty cover enhances this effect.) The second cause for concern is that this is a novel about an eleven-year-old boy, and if Room and Pigeon English taught us nothing else (and they didn’t), it’s that we should be wary of child narratives. In fact, I needn’t have worried, since the prologue--with nineteen paragraphs each beginning “When I was eleven”--makes it clear that this is a story about the narrator’s childhood, written by him when older, looking back. We are more in the territory of True Grit, with wit and aplomb, and with no need to handicap the narrative voice by artificial restrictions.
The review goes on to say "it’s a confident and straightforward narrative in a well-achieved voice which gets its points across in fewer than 250 pages."

If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of The Dubious Salvation of Jack V., all you have to do is answer this question:

What animal is Jack V. shown riding at Strauss' website?

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Sept. 22--at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Sept. 23.


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