Book Review: The Monkeybars Of Life
Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
Ted Pittman's debut novel, The Monkeybars Of Life, salutes the dual notions of endurance and survival. Pittman's main character, Nate LaChae, who is blessed with an immensely gifted mind for things mechanical, plows ahead through all kinds of obstacles and challenges to realize his dream. Remembering his beloved mother's words that she would pray for him ’while he climbs those giant monkeybars of life,’ he allows nothing to stand in his way. Pittman knows a good analogy when he sees one: in this modern, high-tech world, it takes more than luck, fate or talent to succeed. It takes a dogged determination.
Early in his life, Nate is a dreamer and prodder. A hip nerd with moments of rebellion. That is why the family feels his mother, Motherdear, did right by Nate sending him to his father's house. They were afraid he might go bad. Nate has a healthy respect for his parents, but again he will not let them deter him from reaching his goals. His young life is filled with creativity, invention, and science projects. One project, a revolutionary engine, catches his fancy and it will not let him go.
Meanwhile, Nate endures all of the mistakes a young man makes. He likes the ladies, a variety of them, and they like him. But one lady, Eva, snares him early after he gets her pregnant. He is crazy about her and has children with her. However, she is bored with him and wants a more practical man. When they bust up, it is a bitter, harsh breakup with the court siding with her even though he has supported her financially. She tells the court that he physically abused her and is a deadbeat father.
Throughout the novel, Nate knocks around, going from job to job, woman to woman. His project of developing the engine is first and foremost in his mind, so he attempts to raise funds to finance it with several software companies and high-tech firms. Everything is printouts, graphs, computer data, modified modes, and imputing tapes. One company offers a $25,000 prize for the best suggestion, but complications prevent him from getting the award. One thing about Pittman's novel is there are so many characters in these pages, such as Motherdear, Bobby, Reggie, Aunt Lil, Ernest DuPree, Chuck, Ted, Casey, Reardon, and Reggie. It's almost like reading a fat volume of Charles Dickens with the full range of characters, but he sees that each and every one gets his or her just due.
While Nate's journey takes him to Europe and back to the States, Pittman continues to focus everything on his main character, his strengths and weakness, his trials and triumphs. Sometimes Nate falls off the wagon by drinking too much. Sometimes he regrets that Eva and her mother have him powerless in the courts for lack of child support. Sometimes he makes bad decisions when he leaves his love, Beatrice, because she gives him an ultimatum of getting a divorce so she can marry him. Sometimes he has serious guilt such when his beloved mother goes into a coma. But one thing sustains him and that is his dream.
Through all of the novel's event-packed narrative, Nate survives the betrayals, the lawsuits, the counter suits, fraud, and larceny to realize his potential but falling short of his dream. He returns home to be the father that his children need and to fulfill his destiny. Believable, engaging, and inspirational, Pittman's novel about an uncommon man and his gift makes for an interesting read. You will be hearing more from Mr. Pittman.