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- Published on Amazon.com
Joey El Bueno is an 82-year-old patient recovering in Bellevue Hospital in New York on Christmas Eve. A writer and former screenwriter, Joey is working on his memoir under the watchful eye of Nurse Rose Ellen Bloor.
His story opens in New York City in 1941, where he's a smart-mouthed seventh grader at St. Stephen's School. Joey is a child of sacrifice. He has never known a mother's love because his mom, Eileen, died in childbirth. His father, Pop, is shamelessly and utterly devoted to the boy. Pop is an immigrant who speaks broken English, makes a living doing back-bending work, and does without so Joey can have a better life.
St. Stephen's is where Joey first meets Jane Bent, "this real pretty girl with reddish hair...in pigtails with green-and-yellow smiley-face barrettes at the ends." From the moment they see each other, Jane tells Joey details only he should know, and she knows some things about him even he doesn't know. After their first encounter, Jane disappears. Joey asks about her, but no one else has seen her, except a classmate who claims he saw her levitate six feet off the floor at a movie theater.
When Jane finally returns, she looks different and another age. Who is Jane Bent? Is she real, is she crazy, or is Joey crazy himself? During one visit, Jane claims she is on a secret Christmas quest. She buys him dinner, talks about how prayer builds up grace, and reminds him of the importance of confession, trust and generosity.
As the end of Joey's life draws near, the past floats to the surface of his memory: the movies and radio programs he and his father enjoyed, the sacrifices his father made for him, scrapes with his childhood friends, his Catholic school education at the hands of the Jesuits, his life in Hollywood and his return to the East Coast. With Christmas hours away --- through his stream of consciousness, and sometimes unconsciousness --- Joey reflects on his regrets and missteps, along with his moments of kindness and grace.
Interrupting his reverie is Rose Ellen Bloor, a self-assured nurse who wears stiletto heels and tells Joey about her dream of writing a screenplay about Adolph Hitler. She asks for his help because she isn't sure of the all technical stuff --- "the words."
CRAZY, with its wildly creative and humorous scenarios, is wise and witty, funny and sad. Through Joey's story, William Peter Blatty's unflinching prose questions the meaning of life. It's a story of good and evil, of second chances, of coming to peace at the end of the road and welcoming the unknown. Just as Joey takes a tangled trip down memory lane, reflecting and deflecting and detouring to figure out the mystery of Jane, following him on his serpentine journey is worth the trip. In the end, Joey's story makes sense --- and it gives a sense of promise and hope.
--- Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt ([...])