Whippins, Switches & Peach Cobbler
by Brian Egeston
Format: Hardcover, 379pp.
Reviewed by Thumper
It's times like these that I wish I were an editor. Whippins, Switches & Peach Cobbler, the first by Brian Egeston, is a novel that doesn't quite make up its mind on which type of novel it is. I can't tell if it's a family drama, or a coming of age story. I'm not saying that a book can't be both. I am saying that one should learn to crawl before he tries to run the 100-yard dash. While I read the novel, the song If I Were A Carpenter kept running through my head. I changed the song from If I Were A Carpenter to If I Were An Editor because Whippins, Switches & Peach Cobbler could have been, should have been tighter than a drum.
Whippins, Switches & Peach Cobbler brings back childhood memories as it tells the story of Benjamin Dempkins, Benny from his childhood to his graduation from college. Of course nowadays it's called child abuse, the book first calls to mind the discipline that we like to claim as unique to the AA community. I long for the days when all a parent had to throw was a look to make a child "act right". The book also goes into the relationship between Benny's parents, Ronald and Shelia. There's a whole family dynamics going on in Whippins, Switches and Peach Cobbler.
Let's start with the bad news first, go ahead and get it out of the way. Whippins, Switches and Peach Cobbler suffers from trying to do too many things at one time. The first half of the book focuses on Benny. The first chapters were funny, but these only featured situations where Benny would get whippins. That was cool at first because Egeston has a wonderful ear and memory, but it proved a disservice. Egeston opportunity to start building characters was wasted. I never got to know any of the characters. There was nothing that would make these characters memorable.
The book seemed like a quilt made of different patches. There was no flow or rhythm from chapter to chapter. Egeston would have done better if the chapters were developed as short stories, then the expectation of one chapter flowing into another would not have existed. Maybe if the short story angle was employed different narratives and perspectives could have been used; thereby, making an interesting book.
It may appear that I'm being a hard on Egeston, I'm really quite sad. There's a lot of potential here. Egeston has a wonderful ear and writes good dialogue. But there's nothing extraordinary about Whippins, Switches & Peach Cobbler that would make it a stand out among the growing field of family dramas and coming-of-age stories.
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