Big Ray by Michael Kimball

A quick rundown… A man reflecting on life with his father after his father’s death.

Strengths: Each entry although short, packs a punch.

Weaknesses: Took me a little while to get used to the short entries.

Why I read it: Sent to me by Bloomsbury ANZ – thank you!

Pages: 182

Published: 2012

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Setting: America

Rating: 8 out of 10

Big Ray may be a fairly short book at just 182 pages, but its contents certainly do punch well above its weight. Weight being one of the main topics covered in this reflective, semi-autobiographical book in 500 entries, matching the weight of Daniel’s father, Big Ray, when he passed away.

Each entry tells the reader a snippet of life with Big Ray. As the entries accumulate, my feelings became confused. Should I feel sorry for this large man with numerous medical problems whose activities were restricted by his size? When I read about the abuse his wife and children received at his hands, I felt guilty about feeling sorry for him. When I read about Daniel trying to relate to Big Ray, I felt sorry for them both.

You might have guessed now that this slim novel carries a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s powerful, and kudos to Michael Kimball for being able to communicate so much in just a few sentences. It’s easy to feel Daniel’s pain and conflicting emotions. This novel packs as big a punch as a 500 page chunkster. It describes the complexities of family relationships – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is also somewhat of a journal of discovery for Daniel, as he adjusts to life without a father, examining the man he both loved and hated.

I enjoyed how Kimball examined the feelings of his protagonist in this novel, leading up to a big punch where Big Ray’s character (and our sympathies) completely changed. This is emotion laid bare, told succinctly and directly. Definitely worth a read.

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