Ravens by George Dawes Green (♦♦♦½)

Brunswick, Georgia.

Housewife Patsy Boatwright plays the lottery with abandon every time she can. Her children and husband already know her rituals: sipping drink after drink every Wednesday night in front of the TV until she passes up drunk and unhappy because she wasn’t lucky. This time something is different because Patsy hits the jackpot with $318M (the lump sum is roughly $120M). The Boatwrights start dreaming of untold riches and swear secrecy but Jase, the youngest child, tells a friend at school and the news spread as wildfire.

Shaw and Romeo are two IT techs that have abandoned their lives in Ohio and taken to the road, destination Florida. Once there they plan to work and save enough money to spend the rest of their lives in the Caribbean. Shaw and Romeo pass through Brunswick on their way to Florida the morning after the lottery drawing, and stop by at the same gas station where the ticket was sold. When TV vans begin to gather in anticipation of the announcement of a winner, Shaw finds out through the grapevine the cause of the commotion and concocts a plan: to extort the Boatwrights of half their winnings.

I liked Ravens more than my rating reflects. It is suspenseful yet funny and the characters so familiar that they may very well be the inhabitants of any small town anywhere. The story is so compulsively readable that I was awoken after hours reading just one more chapter. The story develops at a steady but sure pace, so it doesn’t feel rushed but you can actually feel that is building enough suspense so that something very bad may happen at any moment.

The reality though is that I was slightly confused: these two crooks were small timers who didn’t have a clue on how to proceed if things got hairy, and as you might expect things do get hairy very quickly. What got me confused is that I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to carry out their threats because they were so nice... I mean, they were trying to extort the family, but at the same time wanted to be loved, and cared for strangers in such a way that you start having doubts; in other words, they grow on you.

I thought Ravens ended the way it should, but somehow I needed an epilogue to explain how the family lived afterwards.

In summary, Ravens is an unconventional story that unfolds more at the pace of a dream than a terrible nightmare, but it’s a gritty story told with humor and wit.