You may vaguely remember this title from my post on books that followed me home, like, forever ago. I had given Zeltserman’s other book, Killer, first dibs on being read, but I didn’t get very into it and this A to Z Challenge isn’t going on much longer so I picked up Caretaker instead, hoping it would be better.
Boy, is it. The non-alphabet-related reason I had picked this book up was that it mentioned James M. Cain, whom I currently adore, on the cover, and I’d say that NPR is right with that comparison. Zeltserman creates an odd situation, throws a bunch of people into it, and then sees what they have to do to fix it.
I’m not kidding about the odd situation, either — the caretaker of the title spends his days out at the field of the title pulling up monsters that look like weeds but that if left to grow for only a few days will get ginormous and eat the entire world. Nomnomnom.
Or… maybe they’re just weeds. The caretaker, Jack Durkin, certainly thinks they’re monsters, and so do some of the older community members who have been around to see other Durkins take care of the field (there’s a 300-year-old contract involved), but the majority of everyone is pretty sure they’re just weeds, including Durkin’s wife, who is getting a little sick of being ridiculously poor and thinks that Durkin needs to just get a new job already and stop being a lazy person who weeds for 12 hours a day.
Durkin doesn’t like being so disrespected, so he figures out a way to prove that the weeds aren’t weeds, but in the process of doing so some TERRIBLE HORRIBLE things happen that might be the monsters’ fault or might be Durkin’s fault or might be just an accident. And I changed my mind about which one it was just about every page for the last half of the book.
So it’s pretty exciting, and a little brain-exploding, and it also throws in a ton of Cain-style completely depressing. Zeltserman takes it a little too far at the end, making the book several pages longer than it strictly needs to be and passing up a few good stopping points, but I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending so that’s all right.
Recommendation: For the person who doesn’t like to know what’s happening at any given moment and/or who likes an existential crisis or two.
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