Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread (a novel)
The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson
This is another "classic" (published in 1965) I never heard of until someone recently chose it for our book club to read. At a little over 200 pages, it's a short and easy read.
It tells the story of a nine-year-old boy, Morris Bird III, who sets out one October day in 1944 with his little sister in tow, to trek across Cleveland to visit a friend. Along the way, he faces challenges and obstacles which are supposed to be seen as character-building. The story culminates when Morris and his sister reach their destination at the other end of town right as the Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion takes place, an actual event, and apparently one of the worst industrial disasters in American history.
Morris's pilgrimage across town represents his quest for courage, "selfrespect," and a wish to prove his own determination. It's a coming-of-age story, and describes a number of other characters as well. I didn't really care for the book. The author's writing style was not my cup of tea (his penchant for reinventing multiple words as one, as in "selfrespect" and "twentyone" and "lefthanded" and "allofasudden" drove me a little batty), and I didn't like any of the characters, with the exception of an elderly black woman who plays a very minor part in the story. I mostly didn't like Morris Bird III - he's a bratty, mouthy kid who is mean to his little sister, but somehow the reader is asked to root for him. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't think his character was terribly admirable.