A Family Reunited by Jeffery Tracey Sr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A story is only as good as its storytelling. Seinfeld proved that. They took a show about nothing and turned it into a hit due to good storytelling. Jeff Tracey could use some storytelling lessons.
I came across this book when the author was in Kroger doing a book signing. No one seemed interested in talking to him, so I went over and struck up a conversation. He seemed like a kind, grandfatherly gentleman, and when he told me his book was based on his life, I was intrigued, and I purchased a signed copy.
The story is about a boy whose mom cannot afford to raise her children. Three of her sons are with foster parents, and the youngest stays with her. They are then reunited with one brother, the father, then the other two brothers. That part of the story comprises a few paragraphs although I was led to believe it was a major plot element. Most of the story is about the author's childhood growing up on a farm in Kansas and some of the various accidents and mischief he and his brothers created. It sounded entertaining, but it wasn't.
First, the writing lacks polish. In my classroom, I have a sign given to me by a teacher-friend that reads, "I am silently correcting your grammar." I was doing this throughout the book. There are errors in sentence construction, pronoun usage, use of quotation marks, paragraphing, and subject-verb agreement. That should not be the case in any published book. I felt like I was reading one of my sixth grader's essays.
In addition, the author needs a lesson in sentence combining. Let me give you an example: "The doctors told mom... The doctor told mom... The doctor said... He said... The doctor said... The doctor said..." (p 59). These sentences comprise one paragraph. It gets very tiring reading this kind of sentence over and over. He repeats phrases such as, "We are Traceys. We earn our keep," "Life it not fair. Life is what it is," and "Like I said." On page 84, there are seven sentences in a row that begin, "She told me..." There really is no excuse for that type of writing from a published author.
Basically, the book is a collection of short stories. The stories themselves are probably quite entertaining, but the storytelling lacks excitement, passion, conflict-development, compelling dialogue, and characterization. The characters are one-dimensional, flat, and static. The conflict is not explored in much depth, only mentioned here and there. There is no climax; it is just a collection of anecdotes. The theme is not apparent.
Feeling as though you are "grading" an essay when you are reading a book is not an enjoyable experience. I was not left wanting to know what happens next. It's a shame, too. I really wanted to like it.
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