Andrew Nowak is an all-American reject: undereducated, a bit of a slacker, the product of a dysfunctional family, and self-proclaimed dirtbag. Andy isn't even good at being a drug dealer. In his own words: He can't even sell what people want.
As our story begins, Andy is waiting in a local laundromat for a client when a very aggressive woman approaches him. This woman turns out to be the Lithuanian internet bride of said client. She promptly offers Andy one thousand dollars to service her -- orally. A hot woman, sex, and a thousand dollars, needless to say, Andy goes home with her. As the story progresses, we get an insider view into Andy's lost and lonely heart and soul. Andy definitely has the Toa of Pooh. While Andy might be clumsy and accident prone, he is very much self-aware and very aware of the world around him. His simple-mindedness is that of innocence not arrogant stupidity, and that makes Andy very, very charming, much like the stray dog he befriends when he reaches Lithuania. Yes, Andy sells everything, buys a plane ticket, and chases Audra, the Lithuanian Internet Bride, to her homeland. At this point, the story veers off into the predictable stranger in a strange land plot device. We have a lot of wandering aimlessly; we have the wizard of Oz cast of characters, including Toto; and we have dive bars, discothèques, and drug parties, but in reality, this story isn't about the cliché plotline. It's really a study in desperation and co-dependence. Audra is mentally ill, and as it manifests itself, we don't get a medical diagnosis or a laundry list of symptoms, we get to feel its effects very deeply through Andy. His simplistic, colourful, and almost childlike view of the world allows the emotion to stay raw and uncluttered. There are no justifications -- no analysis -- just Andy's honesty. When Andy finds a picture Audra had drawn in his private journal, I got the chills. Actually, the book was full of insightful thrills, chills, a little romance, and enough twists and turns to keep the story entertaining from the first page to the last, which, by the way, is one of the most poignant parts to the story -- almost an Aesop's Fable ending, if you will.
Overall, I loved it. The story flows smoothly, the plotline is flawless, and the imagery is restrained and innocent in its beauty. The prose is tactile and at times even poetic. The main characters are painfully tragic, and so we can laugh, cry, be horrified and be mortally wounded all at the same time. Shakespeare would be proud. Those who like tragic black comedy will adore this book. Those who want psychological realism and those who want to look a little deeper into the psyche of deviant and damaged characters will love its masterful subtlety. Bravo! I can't wait to read more from this author.