“[T]he family is a school of compassion because it is here that we learn to live with other people.” ― Karen Armstrong
Author: Marc Harshbarger
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Pages/Word Count: 318 Pages
Rating: 3 Stars
Blurb: When teenager Cary Davenport agrees to take his mother’s poodle for a walk late one summer night, he never expects to end up gazing upon the gorgeous Chandler Haze (the star quarterback of the Winnetka Wildcats, homecoming king and an object of desire for many), who suddenly appears from Lake Michigan to stand glistening in all his naked glory on the beach.
And with this opening scene, we are transported back to that groovy yesteryear of 1975 to meet various families, friends and other strangers, whose lives become dramatically intertwined as they dance to The Hustle, worship Mary Richards, wear mood rings and own pet rocks during their search for love and happiness—or at the very least a one-night stand of incredible sex.
This is the world of Deep Dish, a dark comic soap opera where sordid secrets are kept by almost everyone.
Review: Deep Dish centers on a convoluted family system in Winnetka, IL in the 1970s. There is a wedding planned between a man and a woman who are members of two large, blended families. There seem to be love (or just sex) connections everywhere, and everyone seems to be a closeted gay or lesbian. High school student, the overweight, self-loathing Cary Davenport, has had a crush on Chandler Haze (star quarterback, of course) for years. The problem is that lots of people have crushes on Chandler Haze, including Cary’s twin brother, Grant, and his step-sister, Delia.
Confused? Me, too. In my opinion, there was just too much going on in Deep Dish, too many characters introduced too quickly. Too many relationships morphing into something completely different from what they appear to be or started out as. Too many people revealing their true sexuality. Just, too much!
I thought more than a few times while reading Deep Dish, of Eric Arvin’s Jasper Lane Series. There was potential here for Mr. Harshbarger to hit the same kind of light, funny note that Mr. Arvin was able to strike in his series. This book was very funny in places. It made me feel deep empathy in others. Many of the characters were just caricatures, but some were fully developed. I think if the author had left out half of them, and focused on a smaller group while maybe mentioning the others as orbiting the central characters and playing a role in the choices made and actions taken, Deep Dish would have been a much more enjoyable read. Written as it was, it was very difficult to follow. There were so many storylines branching off from what I believe should have been the central one, that it was just confusing.
Deep Dish’s story would have been better served up if Mr. Harshbarger had kept Cary, Grant (Yeah, that’s the kind of funny I mentioned. There is a lot of that in the book.) and Chandler as the central part of the entire book. It would have been more successful. As written, the three of them fell into a secondary and sometimes tertiary position and got lost in the very crowded cast of characters. I really needed a bunch of family trees in order to be able to keep track of who belonged to which family and in whose bed.
Cary was a very sympathetic guy. For the limited role he played in the book, he was very well written. I believe that Mr. Harshbarger has a sequel in the works, and I hope he chooses to focus more closely on a smaller cast so it doesn’t read so much like a daily soap opera. Not that that style is a bad thing, but with a daily soap opera, you have a chance to follow the entire cast over an extended period of time. With a novel, there is a beginning and an end. In this case, there was just too much happening between those points.