I found the changes in time muddling because the narrator tells the story of his mother’s life with George and it was only after George, when she is now with Frank, that he, the Mayor of New Egypt, is born.
This book meanders through the lives of many people living in the town that has lost its main employer and, consequently, seems to have lost its way. There is a dreariness to everything; a hand to mouth existence with the second hand shop the centre of interest from its much thumbed naughty magazines to necessary household objects. The shop thrives as the disheartened residents move to find a better, more vibrant place to live.
There seems to be no point to the story, no pivotal moment. It just wanders about telling us how Alma’s enthusiasm gradually spreads giving some point to people’s existence and finally some point to the existence of the whole community.
I had a thought that Alma was like a Deus ex machina. This was the way Ancient Greek playwrights solved the muddle their characters got into. A God descended from the sky, using pulleys, and sorted all the problems out. Alma did this by teaching people how to paint and the enjoyment, satisfaction and delight this gave. The town’s people took over the deserted paint factory and turned it into an art centre. Outsiders came to attend courses there and to admire the murals around the town. Now everyone had a reason to live and the town had its self-respect back.
Did I find it amusing? Not really
Did I find it interesting? Only Vaguely
Was the ending satisfying? I suppose so.
Would I recommend it? No
Our reading group struggled to give it two stars.