Review: DOWNTOWN OWL by Chuck Klosterman

This is a wry look at what it’s like to live in a small community that exists in a cultural vacuum in 1983. The only thing going for it is the high school football team and even they rest on their laurels from years gone by. Into this moribund environment the reader is introduced to Mitch, the not-so-great quarterback, Horace, a retiree who spends his days in a coffee shop and harbors dark secrets, Julie, a young school teacher who stretches the limits of the town’s only entertainment (local bars) and several other characters that contribute to the story.

I enjoyed the writing style which was particularly adept at letting the reader stand to the side and watch events unfold. The narrative is told through the eyes of the three main characters as they go about living their lives. One gets the impression that they are not particularly happy and are waiting for something better to come along.

This is a successful satire of small town life, the quirky characters, societal insecurities of an isolated community and plenty of small town eccentricities. I liked the newspaper excerpts at the beginning and end of the book – it lent a nuance of seeing the characters from a distance.

I could see this book assigned as reading to high school students. It might be a lesson in self-awareness, in how they may appear to outsiders, and they might enjoy the small irony of one of the characters being an English teacher who assigns novels to his class.

All in all I would recommend this novel as a fascinating look at small town life as represented through different generations.



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