Friday, January 21, 2011

Me, Dead Dad & Alcatraz by Chris Lynch

Photo taken from Goodreads
Book Info

Title:  Me, Dead Dad & Alcatraz
Author:  Chris Lynch
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Language: English
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  240 pages
ISBN-10:  0060597097
ISBN-13:  978-0060597092
Source:  Purchased, Booksale

From Goodreads
"Elvin Bishop's uncle is a lot like Elvin's father. They're both dead, for instance. But Elvin's cool with that; it's the way it's been for as long as he can remember.

Then one day it turns out that Uncle Alex isn't exactly dead. He is, instead, sitting on the couch, chewing a scone, and preparing to make up for lost time by fixing his sad-sack nephew before it's too late. Not long out of prison and perhaps not long for this world, Alex embarks on a crash course of tough love designed to turn Elvin into a real Bishop man.

Despite his mighty powers of resistance and denial, Elvin is dragged on an odyssey that introduces him to glam tuba, hellfire-hot food, and the horrors of gym membership. Along the way he finds things he never wanted to look for -- lost relatives, history, roots, regrets, and his own wobbly brand of strength."


A fellow blogger told me that she had been unimpressed with Lynch's latest works, but heard great things about this author for his earlier books.  This book I got from the secondhand bookshop in the mall nearby, and I did not read the first pages initially, I just based on the synopsis which was pretty interesting.  

I should not have skipped on reading a few pages first.

I'm not saying that I shouldn't have picked this up, it's just that had I read a few pages at first, I wouldn't have placed too high an expectation on this book just because the synopsis sounded totally intriguing.  I say this because when I began reading, I got bored and irritated by the first chapters.  Elvin as a narrator was like reading through a biased account of events.  He was very self-centered, weak, and a sense of humor that was meant to be self-deprecating but came off as more 'inversely-conceited'.  I could not sympathize with him, could not appreciate his humor, could not laugh at his jokes.  Even his sarcasm - and I love me a dose of sarcasm - was a bit forced.  While reading, I tried to learn some more about this book online and found that this was the third book in a series, the first books including Slot Machine and Extreme Elvin.  This surprised me, because if this was the third (last?) book, some semblance of character improvement would have happened already, right?  But Elvin seemed averse to change, in  fact, he admitted it himself and that's one of the major themes in this third book.  That Elvin was a fourteen-year-old boy who could not easily adapt to change but sometimes makes very adult - if warped - observations of what's happening to him I think is a bit inconsistent, and that's another flaw I found in Elvin's character.  

And another thing, my imagination was sort of restrained because this book was written without actually presenting a vivid setting of the story.  We just know that this happens in a town with a Thai Restaurant, a gym, a barber shop owned by a psychedelic barber named Nardo, another barber shop by an old barber named Sal, a school, a church, and not much else.  I was even confused as to whether Elvin was in the UK or US, but I later assumed he's in US because he mentioned United States Penitentiary and the Wild West.  This is not the first time I ever encountered the 'white room syndrome,' where the setting is not described and readers have no idea where the characters are, but in other books, that has not limited my imagination, and was still able to picture them in a particular place doing what they're doing in the book.  In this story, though, it bugged me a bit.

On to the better parts, this book found redemption in the middle to the last chapters.  Elvin's subtle maturity development - or his knack for rolling with the punches - helped him cope with his uncle's presence, and in the end, not only did his uncle found acceptance from one family he wronged, he was able to understand the Bishop way of things:  he understood the father he lost, he understood his bloodline, which was like a mystical thing to him before his uncle came into the picture.  He understood the concept of family, of being a part of a family.  

Despite what I mentioned in the first few paragraphs, I enjoyed this book once I got past the boring and irritating parts.  This book had too much dialogue, but I think that's because the story happens more within Elvin's mind as he struggled to grasp the changes that went with the reappearance of his uncle, so that's forgivable.  Apart from the sometimes 'unfunny-funny' Elvin, the other characters were very 'out there' and real.  I genuinely loved Uncle Alex, and would find myself shaking my head or grinning over Elvin's mom's actions which sort of remind me of my own mother.  However, because I was really rooting for Uncle Alex, I was kind of disappointed with the ending, although it was very comical, the way the story finished.

Overall, the book was fine and I am glad I was able to read this.  It was a bit disappointing that the book would come revving up on the middle to the last parts, I mean, why can't that happen after the first few chapters right?  But hopefully other readers would find it more amusing and interesting than I did, especially the younger readers to whom this book is directed at. 


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced in any way. 


Like this new format?  This will be the new format for my book reviews from now on.  I hope you'd like this better than the previous formats.  Don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have questions or anything :D



  1. Love the new format, easy to read.
    Btw, to me, characters in a book is very important as much as the plot. I wouldn't like selfish characters.

  2. I know, it looks more organized. I've been racking my brain for some weeks now how to improve the format...finally found the best that works for me :D

  3. I like this new format. It looks nice and organized.

  4. I do appreciate the thought, but don't worry to much about trying to change it. I don't have a claim to bars of color :)


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