Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Broken Idols by John Cunningham

Broken Idols


John Cunningham





The perfect rental house. A Mecca of debauchery for John Quinn and his three friends to live out their days as misfits and social exiles, and at $600 per month, it's a steal! When their war on societal convention pits them against the deeply established neighborhood criminal element, however, as well as a gang of miscreants with short tempers and aluminum baseball bats, the foursome quickly finds itself on the radar of the ubiquitous Officer Shannon Mitchell, a bully of a policeman who just happens to be the landlord. Against this backdrop of escalating violence, John must find a way to make peace with his ever-irritable adversaries and survive the battle of wills with Officer Mitchell if he hopes to win the girl and endure his roommates to keep the dream of the perfect rental alive.



When this book became available on Amazon I picked up a copy after doing an interview with John Cunningham.

For anyone who has ever had a time in their life of self discovery or misguided decisions, this book is for you. (and who hasn't, right?) A story that at first appears to be about nothing except the miscreant shenanigans of some entertaining, yet morally questionable characters, Broken Idols' plot actually floats upon current social conflicts and a cry for change. Cunningham is able to break down the barrier of racial stereotypes and immerse the reader in a world they may have only ever driven past on the street. His story is captivating, hilarious, and definitely thought provoking.     

My favorite aspect of John Cunningham's intricate writing style is the voice. I don't think I've ever read better inner-monologue anywhere else. The way he can express thoughts and tell a story without it sounding like the directions that come with a "some assembly required" bookshelf is outstanding. His words would stay with me long after reading. This, he says of a PDA couple he passes in the street, is just one of my many favorite quotes from Broken Idols. "Who were they to splatter their darkling romance all over the street for any unfortunate passerby to trip over? They were thieves in the night, stealing each others' breath and making promises that maturity would quickly snuff out with its unbearably ruthless efficiency."

As much as I praise this debut novel, there were things about it that didn't sit right with me. Particularly the vulgarity and excessive use of foul language. I do not recommend this read if you are sensitive to such things. The main character is very candid in his expressions and opinions and the audience has a front row seat to his every musing. The author also doesn't try very hard to hide the fact that this story is, in most ways, about him, probably drawing from the adventures from his past and reflecting on decisions he could have made differently. The main character's name is John for goodness sake! There is nothing wrong with that, but as a reader I find myself focusing on trying to figure out what is fact and what is fiction, which ultimately waters down the experience.  

In any case, Cunningham's characters are deeply flawed yet you would no doubt bet on them anyway. He manages to take a sensitive and destructive time in peoples lives and illustrate the masked beauty in it. I'm looking forward to more work from John Cunningham, although nothing has been officially announced.    

4.5 stars

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