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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Review: Finding the Moon in Sugar by Gint Aras

It's hard to write, finish, and revise a book, and it takes courage and money to get it out there. Readers who are interested in self-published books but who don't want to waste their time on low-quality ones need a place to go for reviews. I'll post a review of a self-published book the first weekend of every month so that authors and readers can connect with each other. Interviews have been put on hold for now due to time constraints.

If you're interested in getting your book reviewed, please email my assistant at bert{at}ceciliadominic.com

Title: Finding the Moon in Sugar
Author: Karolis Gintaras Žukauskas, aka Gint Aras
Genre: Tragicomedy, Coming of Age
Publisher: Infinity

Andrew Nowak hasn't figured out how to get it right yet, "it" being life. He tries to do the right things – hold down a job, take classes at the community college – but he ends up in debt and dealing drugs. He has a mother with a sixth sense about when he has money and who applies the right balance of guilt and insult to get it away from him. His sister is a meth-head who ends up living with her mother-in-law. So when lovely Lithuanian internet bride Audra takes an interest in him, he goes with it even though she's married to someone he fears. He's so smitten that when she gets an American passport and returns to Vilnius, he sells everything and follows her.

In spite of the interesting premise, it took me a while to get into this book for two reasons. First, Nowak isn't the type of narrator I find sympathetic, and he spends enough of the book either drunk or high that after the second or third time, I was thinking, "Enough, already!" In fact, the title is taken from something he does while out of his mind on vodka after a funeral. Second, it's written as though it's his memoir, which he's writing to look at the past and "figure stuff out." It took a few chapters for me to ignore the misspellings and grammar mistakes that are part of his writing, e.g., "cauze" instead of "because." Also, after he goes to Lithuania, he starts substituting "make" for "have" like his Lithuanian friends do, but outside of dialogue.

In spite of his substance use and writing difficulties, Nowak grows on the reader, especially after Audra becomes unstable, and he has to take care of himself and find his own way in a strange country. Aras demonstrates his own prowess with language while staying in Nowak's voice with phrases like, "And she blew this line of smoke, like a rope for Gidas to hang himself" (page 109). I also really liked, "I could feel the big difference between a girlfriend and a wife, like how a wife would get old if you don't [mess] it up" (page 178, language lightened for the blog). There are also several interesting parallels between Nowak's history and his experiences that were fun to ponder after reading the book. Sure, Andy has fried a few brain cells, but he has good observation skills and insight into his own and others' motivations, which is how he survives Audra's most self-destructive act.

The book for this review was a courtesy paperback copy from the author, and it's beautifully done from the cover to the layout on the inside. It was hard to tell what might be a typo since the narrator isn't a proficient writer, but nothing stood out. You can get signed or electronic copies from Aras' website.

Bottom Line: A sweet novel from a rough narrator. Well worth the time to read.

Previous Reviews:
Perry Treadwell's From Sea to Shining Sea on U.S. 20
James Huskins' Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper
Laura Eno's Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel
Donna Carrick's The First Excellence -- Fa-Ling's Map
Kenn Allen's The Golden Cockerel

Up next: Russell Brooks' Pandora's Succession

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