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Leaper by Geoffrey Wood

Geoffrey WoodThe Geoffrey Wood File:

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Review of Leaper

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The Advocate

by Geoffrey Wood

Reviewed by Heather R. Hunt

"...a thinking person's comedy for the 'Heroes' audience. Except Wood's musings go deeper than any TV show world ... a smashing debut novel."

Question: What does the publishing world have in common with Protestant Christianity? Answer: As many genres as there are denominations! Case in point: Chick lit is one of the newest genres to emerge in recent years, and it has already subdivided into Mom Lit, Senior Lit, and now ... Lad Lit. Geoffrey Wood's "Leaper" is one of the finest examples of lad lit; it's a thinking person's comedy for the "Heroes" audience. Except Wood's musings go deeper than any TV show would, thus demonstrating anew the privileged position of the novel form to fully explore deep thoughts.

"Leaper" is a fun book in many ways starting with the very first page, which is a 7-panel comic book layout of the whole novel. You've heard of flash fiction? Well, this is flash fiction ... without any words at all! Next comes an intriguing excerpt from a police report. Then begins Part 1 with the opening line: "The first time it happened, I had pins sticking in my back." Are you hooked yet?

While many books (and movies, for that matter) have terrific openings, too many of them falter in the middle or positively fizzle at the end. Not so with "Leaper." James, the leaper himself, is a hoot to spend time with. His voice is hilarious, ironic, and desperately hopeful. His precocious view of the world is often so well-put that I wished I thought of that. Here's his description of his burly co-worker: "Mike is somewhere between Pre- and Cambrian." And his wry frustration about a confusing conversation in which he accidentally asks another co-worker out: "Nobody involved in this conversation seems to be in charge of it ..." And his succinct declaration about the grocery store handbaskets at the Shoppy Mart: "Regarding handbaskets: clearly these are made for someone buying three apples." And his rant goes on for paragraphs describing the wire handle biting into your skin and the awkward hunch users adopt to make sure the basket doesn't break. I'm tearing up now just thinking about how much I laughed at the beautiful, silly truthfulness of it.

Then there's James' satisfying use of a stapler during his encounter with an annoying salesman at Gadget Town. His increasingly poignant exchanges with his ex-wife despite some oddball situations. His begrudging rapport with Ellen, the no-nonsense 911 operator. And ultimately, his honest conversations with his priest and with God Himself.

Writer Wood can be as profound as he is precocious. At one point he has James' longsuffering priest confess: "I haven't believed one new thing in years, James. I need to think about that." And check out the advice James receives about his strange leaping ability late in the novel: "The gift is not for you. It's for others. Everything we're given is for others."

So we know that "Leaper" succeeds at the chick lit prerogative of being character- and voice-driven. But what about the plot? No worries there. Wood weaves an intricate, movie-quality plot in which every mention of every seemingly incidental object from a book title to a coffee flavor is paid off somewhere in the best "if the gun's in the scene, it always fires" screenplay tradition. And he brews up an ending that is appropriately existential, mysterious, and shocking. Think "Gone with the Wind" surprising. You must read this book in a club or at least with a friend. 'Cause you'll have lots to talk about. Bravo, Geoffrey Wood, you've written a smashing debut novel.

Heather R. HuntHeather R. Hunt is a business editor in Connecticut. For fun she reads, writes, cheers on the Red Sox, and enjoys tennis and cycling. She also co-leads a local tea party and enjoys holding government officials and media outlets accountable. Check out her blogs, The View from Stonewater and Connecticut for Sarah Palin.