20 July 2013
Written by Diana Kenny
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As Diana Kenny writes,  Patricia Wood’s debut novel 'Lottery' will make you laugh,  tug at your heartstrings and add value to your understanding of ‘fortunate’


My book group this month read Lottery, the first book by American novelist Patricia Wood and shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize for fiction – not bad for her first book!

The story revolves around one Perry L Crandall, with the L standing for Lucky.

Perry was raised by his grandparents after being abandoned by his parents - his father disappearing with the family’s money and his mother, well, she just wasn’t the mothering kind.

Although Perry is what’s considered “slow” his grandparents instil in him their own special wisdom. His grandfather, Gramp, instructs him in sailing and boat maintenance.  His grandmother, Gram, shares with him her own homespun wisdom, ensuring he knows his words by going through the dictionary one word, one day at a time. That pace is increased to five words a day when Gram realises it will take Perry 205 years to complete the task.  Perry is especially struck by the word auditor, meaning listener and he becomes a good listener.

We join Perry when he is 32. Gramps has died and Perry has a job at Holsted’s Marine Supply, which is next door to where his grandfather had his own marine business. Early in the novel his grandmother dies and Perry is cheated out of his inheritance, the family home, by his money-hungry relatives.

The reader is introduced, through Perry in the first person, to his friends and workmates - to those he cares about and who care about him as well as a few others who are not so kind to him.

As you may have guessed from the title, Perry wins the lottery and the fun begins.  Although Perry is an innocent in his dealings with people he is also very shrewd.  He listens, is aware of their body language and has his own idea of what constitutes wealth.  

To him he is rich because of his friends - the fact that he can now buy them lunch every day is especially important to him.

He quickly notices the change in people's attitude towards him. They now look him in the eye when they had previously avoided this. He is besieged with begging letters and of course, like sharks, his awful family return.

This book does not fall into a lightweight tale of the poor underdog.  Perry’s astuteness in dealing with the money, the transference of his listening skills into business shrewdness make this a very compelling read; I could hardly put it down.

To quote the Miami Herald: “The consistent voice and emotional logic of the first-person narration anchors readers securely in Perry’s world, gently prodding them to re-examine intelligence, capability and at what point money affects society’s perceptions.”

I hope I have the charity to learn that lesson.




0 #1 Mel 2014-12-05 10:14
I read this book on your recommendation and I loved it!!! Thank you so much. I laughed out loud, sobbed, had many provoked thoughts and was left reflecting on what it is to be human.
A great read!

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