||A Review of
Busy Monsters: A Novel
Hardback: Norton, 2011.
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Reviewed by Greg Schreur.
Normally I avoid books that include any of the following in their cast of characters: kraken, Sasquatch, space aliens, or Asiatic sex slaves. Busy Monsters, according to the book description, has all of them. Normally I want to be so immersed in the reading experience that I am not interrupted by moments of skepticism. Busy Monsters almost begs you to stop and consider. But then again, William Giraldi’s engaging, smart, and readable first novel is anything but normal.
The basic plot follows Charlie Homar as he alternately tries to win back the love of his departed fiancée Gillian while other times seeks to move on into an uncertain future without her. Pushing him toward the latter—while loyally supporting Charlie’s longing—is longtime friend and sometime foil, Groot, who is also a lethal Navy SEAL. Groot’s guidance proves helpful in a number of situations, including Charlie’s determination to kill Gillian’s ex-boyfriend. For other missions, Groot is on duty in Afghanistan or under firm orders from his mother to pick up an ice-cream cake for his father’s birthday party.
Groot’s duality as assassin/mama’s boy is emblematic of the duality that is present throughout the novel. To begin with, Charlie, the narrator of Busy Monsters, is a memoirist. A clear conflict of interests, you might say. Yet because each of Charlie’s misadventures becomes a part of his serialized memoirs, Giraldi is onto something different altogether.