Monday, January 30, 2012

The Mystic Market by Ruth Perkinson

Publisher:       Bella Books

Ruth Perkinson doesn't write books that are easy to read.  She chooses topics that some people find disturbing and she uses words in ways that build images and create thoughts that are one moment crystal clear and then floating on the air in an ethereal manner the next.  She tells a deceptively simple story that suddenly unveils deeper emotions and subjects.  The reader has to concentrate to make sure that she's not missing anything as the plot progresses.  This style makes Perkinson's books rich in content, challenging for a reader and rewarding to read.

The Mystic Market is a combination grocery, bar and tackle shop located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and run by Diana Tucci and her sister Fannie Crabwell, the town's resident Tarot card reader and general eccentric.  It's also home to Deputy Blair Wingfield and her paralyzed brother Aaron.  They are as much a part of the scenery as the market itself and life goes on at a pretty regular pace until a death rocks the small town.  Mary Louise Martinez is found hanging from the net on the basketball court at the local high school.  The device she used to hang herself was a rainbow flag and she left a note blaming the school and the basketball coach for the bullying that was aimed at her.  When Mary Louise's parents decide to sue the school system, they hire Fannie's daughter Emma Jacobs as their lawyer and Jackson Hole finds itself at the center of a media swirl about gay rights and bullying.  Blair is plunged into her own chaos when Aaron ends up in the hospital fighting for his life after a stroke and she finds herself attracted to Emma, a supposedly straight woman.  Blair is forced to deal with a number of issues she'd just as soon avoid.

The Mystic Market is not as deadly serious as it sounds.  Perkinson manages to inject humor into quite a bit of the book.  In the opening scene a young Blair is listening to a sermon and finds the answer to why God lets bad things happen to good people.  When the priest recites, "Even the hairs of your head have all been counted," Blair finally understands that God suffers from OCD.  He's so busy counting hairs that he can't pay attention to anything else.  There are also warm and caring scenes between Blair and Aaron, aka "The Stephen Hawking of Jackson Hole."  Aaron is the type of character that wraps himself around a reader's heart and makes you wish you really knew him.

Perkinson does deal with weighty issues in this book.  There is constant friction between Blair's atheism and the beliefs of other characters.  The trial revolves around the problem of anti-gay bullying, the religious right and the role that schools need to play in protecting students.  As with many books written by gay people, the issue of how people choose to form families is crucial.  And there is the growing attraction between Blair and Emma, which doesn't make sense to either of them, but draws them together like a moth and a flame.

Perkinson also writes a very dense story.  The book is 171 pages, but contains enough information to feel like it's well over 200.  She chooses her words carefully and they blend together to create a multitude of images all at once.  Sometimes it is necessary to re-read a passage to make sure that everything has been absorbed.  Perkinson never talks down to her readers.  She assumes they can assimilate what is going on without constantly backing up over or explaining the plot points.

The Mystic Market is a thoughtful book.  The story itself can be easily read and enjoyed, but the reader who looks for more will find it.

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