Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review -- Letters from Wheatfield by Patrick Shannon

Title of Document: Book Review
Book Title: Letters from Wheatfield
Author: Patrick Shannon
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5705-2
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com
Genre and Target Market: fiction; humor
Publication Date: 2010
Book Length in Pages: 230

This seems to be the summer of reading new releases by authors whose work I have had the pleasure of reviewing before, and I could not be happier about it! However, in the midst of the authors that I am getting to know all over again, Letters from Wheatfield by Patrick Shannon marks a first for me. While I have read multiple books by an author who is creating a series or at least developing a niche in one single genre, Shannon makes almost a complete departure in subject matter and intended audience from his first release to his sophomore effort. Practically the only attributes that Letters from Wheatfield and his initial offering, Viva Cisco, have in common are the high quality of the writing and the sharp use of humor. With great success, Patrick Shannon makes the transition from author of material for children to developing a satirical look at adults in small-town America.

Letters from Wheatfield takes the form of a series of letters (hence the title!) sent from Fred Moore to his cousin Amelia back in New York City about the life he now shares in Montana with his wife Sarah. Through his correspondence, which is provided as research towards Amelia’s desire to write a book about rural life in Montana, Fred reveals the eccentric personalities and quick-spreading gossip that give small towns their unique character. From terrorist threats being investigated by a sheriff who is not quite up to the task to a reverend who is photographed in a compromising position to the town uproar that can develop from a single letter to the editor, readers will discover that life is anything but dull in Wheatfield.

Those who find their quiet reading time is frequently interrupted, as my moments with a book in hand are often accompanied by my two small children, will appreciate the formatting of Letters from Wheatfield. Each letter shares an amusing story, or at least one complete segment of a story that requires several pieces of mail to reveal all of the details, and can be read in a couple of minutes. Of course, readers likely will find that they are drawn to the vibrant community that Shannon creates and will continue to turn the pages to discover the next memorable moment in the life of Wheatfield. Shannon includes sharp dialogue and hilarious commentary that makes his work hard to put down.

While Shannon may poke fun at the way in which privacy is a foreign concept for the residents of a small town and that there may be some naivete among certain members of the community when it comes to “big city” issues, he also displays great respect for the characters he creates. In many of the letters that Fred writes to his cousin, he reminds her that Wheatfield is filled with the nicest and most down-to-earth people you ever could hope to meet. Being a resident of Montana himself, it is obvious throughout the book that Shannon approaches his subject matter with respect and adoration.

With the release of Letters from Wheatfield, I now can count myself a fan of Patrick Shannon’s work in two genres. As someone who often makes the choice to bypass the interstate and instead take the roads that bring my travels through small towns across our country, I love the character and pride that exists in destinations that are marked only by small dots on our maps. Shannon does a great job of capturing the feel of these rural areas and the people who choose to make them home. Makes me want to jump in my car and discover a Wheatfield that undoubtedly exists somewhere near me!

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1 comment:

Claudia said...

Hi Yvonne,
This book sounds interesting. Although, the letter format of the book reminds me of "The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society" a historical fiction where the story is told through the exchange of letters between characters. I had to read this book for my book club and I absolutely loved it. I could not put it down. I hope Shannon's book delivers.