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Book review: <i>Another Broken Wizard</i> by Colin Dodds

the cover of the book

The second-wave rite-of-passage story (ie late twenties as opposed to late teens) has been done a lot lately. But if you want a solid example of the genre, go with Another Broken Wizard. Dodds has done an outstanding job painting a poignant, utterly unselfconscious depiction of growing up.

The story

Jim's in an odd place; late twenties, recently unemployed from a decent job in New York city, and on his way home to Boston to face a Christmas with two recently divorced parents and a soon to be hospitalised father while attempting to hold his relationship together and try to find a new job. It's as though he's on the cusp of adulthood, and returning to the place of his childhood and adolescence may not be the best place to start.

Jim deals with the festive season and his father's hospitalisation as best he can, and devotes his mornings to emailing resumes. But he can't avoid the life he used to have in Boston; he's from a small part of town. And so many of his childhood friends are still here doing their own battle with growing up. So blowing off a little steam with them seems like just the thing.

Jim knows that it's probably a counterproductive way to spend his time, but he's drawn back into this world. He watches from the edges, knowing something has to give in the course of this journey into growing up.

The style

Another Broken Wizard is written in the first person, narrated by the protagonist; Jim. His voice is intimate and unselfconscious, his interactions with his friends and family feel scrupulously honest. It's not a super-long read; Another Broken Wizard is a page turner.

And the lovely portrayal of the protagonist is what makes it so. Dodds manages incredibly cleverly to incorporate so much profundity into every conversation, every feeling, every frustration that Jim experiences, and he manages to avoid sounding selfconscious or like a pratt. And that is a feat, when a lot of your subject matter revolves around kids who come from lower middle class backgrounds where casual violence and drug use and alcohol are part of their lives, still. Unpracticed authors seem to have trouble pulling this off. But not Dodds. The profound life conversations happen while the main characters are high, so they are credible and not forced. All the interactions are so realistic and empathetic, every character is flawed but deeply relate-able. And there's a sadness that permeates the story of so many characters who are struggling to make life different from how it's turning out, all in their own flawed way, and none of the issues are forced. It's great.

To be honest, this theme has been done. A lot. And if somebody had told me that Another Broken Wizard was one of those really coming of age books (as in, late twenties as opposed to teens) I might have approached it with a bit more trepidation. But if it's well done, it's well done, no matter what the subject matter. Also, if it's well done, I'm going to like it, because I'm of that age and I can relate. And that's what happened with Another Broken Wizard. It's so well done it kept me nostalgic for something that isn't my story, isn't my town, and I got really emotionally involved. I may have shed a tear at the beautifully foreshadowed climax, and I do not cry easily! Seriously. Give it a read.

Who is this book for?

I guess it's for people in their late twenties/early thirties, who can relate to the issues in the book most strongly. That said, it would be suitable for any age group because these issues can of course be translated universally. Another Broken Wizard is pretty gritty, and not that nice, more for a cathartic read than a joyful read. But still, highly recommended.

If you like this book, you would also like...

I say it's been done, but I can't really think off the top of my head of that many comparisons. Anything by Nick Earls. I'll come up with more.

In short

Title: Another Broken Wizard
Author: Colin Dodds
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1466213036
Year published: 2011
Pages: 244
Genre(s): Contemporary Literature
Review Type: