Marked In Your Words: I’m The Joke, I’m The Bastard

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s work in 2012.  I’ve only reviewed a few of those books here so far, though, so I’ll be sharing my thoughts on another today.

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Image courtesy of http://www.vonnegutreview.com.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

275 pages

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is, quite simply, about a man named Eliot (one t, not two like my beloved Elliott Smith) Rosewater.  He is fabulously wealthy, as he is heir to a large fortune that has been placed in the Rosewater Foundation to prevent outsiders from getting their hands on it.  Unfortunately, he is also an alcoholic with questionable sanity.

He desires to help others, claiming to love everyone no matter what.  He sets up shop in a dilapidated office in Rosewater County, Indiana using the Rosewater Foundation to help others however he can.  It’s a very bizarre setup.  People will call him at all hours of the night crying about their problems, and he will then offer them something (usually a fairly small amount of money) to make them happier and allow them to make it through yet another day.

In Rhode Island, his cousin Fred Rosewater (who doesn’t know until about halfway through the book that he’s Eliot’s cousin) is a poor insurance salesman.  When he finds out through a lawyer that he’s related to the Rosewaters, the lawyer suggests they set out to prove that Eliot Rosewater is certifiably insane and unfit to be in charge of the family fortune.  Since Eliot has no children, the paperwork for the Rosewater Foundation states that the money would go to Fred if something should happen to him.

Overall, this novel is pretty light and humorous.  Poor Eliot just wants to be a good person … And though he’s definitely weird, I don’t think he’s actually insane.  I think he just can’t wrap his mind around the fact that so many people in Rosewater County feel so unloved and unimportant (mostly because they’re poor, unattractive, etc.), so he makes it his mission to make them all feel better about themselves.

It’s a very weird book (though, to be fair, most of Vonnegut’s books are weird), but an overall enjoyable read.  The main issue I had with it, however, was the fact that the reader never really gets to know Eliot.  He’s written to be a fairly likable character, but maybe that’s because the reader never really gets inside his mind.  I don’t necessarily need books to be written in first person (though I do tend to like that), but I like when an author will at least allow his/her readers a glimpse into the mind of (at the very least) the main character.  If I don’t know much about them, sometimes it can be difficult to care about them, understand their actions and motivations, etc.  As I said earlier, I don’t think Eliot Rosewater is actually insane … But the key word there is think.  I honestly don’t know whether he is or not since I never got to know him well enough.  Yes, it’s just a fictional character.  But when I’m reading something (or watching something, for that matter), I want to be drawn into that world … I want to experience life through the eyes of those characters.  And, perhaps more importantly, I want to give a shit about what happens to them.

I would recommend this book to others, though I’d probably also issue a warning that it’s a little weird and sometimes difficult to really get into.  I may or may not reread it in the future.  I don’t think I’d buy a copy for myself, though, unless I found it on clearance at a used bookstore or something.  Again, it’s not that it was a shitty book … There are just a lot of other books I’d much rather have taking up space on my bookshelf. 

That being said, I would rate God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater THREE STARS.  Basically, I enjoyed it for what it was, but it wasn’t the best Kurt Vonnegut novel I’ve read.

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