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Bainbridge author Evison breaks through with tormented love story, “All about Lulu”
Bainbridge-based author Jonathan Evison’s debut novel, “All About Lulu” isn’t actually his first novel.
The 39-year-old job-hopping, freedom-loving dreamer has been writing for years through occupational stints as a caged bear feeder, rotten tomato sorter, syndicated radio talk show host and script doctor, just to name a few.
Two or three of his first books, Evison said, are literally buried in the backyard and won’t see the light of day. A few more are locked away unless and until his career is established to the point that they can be released in their proper retro-context.
There’s a whole strategy for authors as to how and when to publish which one of his or her books at what time. The pros usually have more than a few books swirling around their minds and files at once and Evison is no different. He chose this coming of age story specifically and strategically for his debut.
It is, as you might guess, all about Lulu.
But more so, Evison’s debut novel is about this emotionally tormented, American familial challenged little boy named William Miller, and how meeting the afore mentioned Lulu turns his world inside out.
It is a portrait of perpetual disappointment, awkward melancholy and obsession which reaches resolution only for the briefest of moments before it is ripped away.
“I understand this bruised-hearted kid,” Evison said of his main character William. “I understand this wishfulness of heart, I just wanted a character who was sympathetic and ... he’s a companionable narrator.”
William is the son of the brazen and buffoonish Big Bill Miller, a professional body builder and adamant meat lover. He also has two younger brothers, Ross and Doug, identical twins who were forged in their father’s muscular image, but cerebrally, they seem to share a brain between them, William supposes.
Never ’Lil Bill or even Little Big Bill, William is pretty consistently against the patriarchal grain of his family.
“Sometimes the fruit does fall far from the tree and sometimes it rolls down the hill and into the brook ... ,” Evison lays it out in “Lulu’s” opening chapter.
William is a scrawny-bodied, intellectual vegetarian in a family of hulking carnivores. Of anyone in the house, he identifies most with his mom.
Tragically, during his early childhood, while his father racked up his carcass to world-class proportions, cancer ravaged his mother inside. The disease took her piece by piece, William describes, until she passed away when he was just 7.
Nine months of casserole-fed melancholy after her death, Big Bill dresses his boys up in identical poly-fiber sweatsuits and takes them out to have a family portrait taken around Christmas time.
That photo is adeptly illustrative of William’s awkward and sullen existence before he met Lulu — Big Bill’s flexing a pose with a strained smile, while the twins hang like monkeys, one on each bicep; William stands quietly uneasy off to the side.
Overlooked by the universe, he feels like a boy who’s world has collapsed on itself.
But the world is made right again, all by this little girl — Lulu.
“The closer I got to her, the more I knew that she was the only person I ever cared to know,” William narrates. “Lulu was an entire population. You could string adjectives together like daisy chains and not describe Lulu ... .”
He is desperately, madly and perhaps dangerously in love with this indescribable, seemingly untouchable girl who provides him a sense of his self, an understanding of love and his first sexual misadventures.
The danger is, Lulu is his stepsister.
“She’s not my sister,” William protests to all those who label her as such in conversation. But clearly, and unfortunately for the protagonist, the lines have been drawn.
For more on the author and “Lulu,” check out the Bainbridge Review’s July 23 Arts and Leisure section.