Lottery: The fortunes and misfortunes of Perry L Crandall, By Patricia Wood

The "L" in Perry L Crandall's name stands, we learn, for "Lucky", but for many years of his life the epithet might not seem to the reader altogether fitting. Perry has an IQ of 76 ("I am not retarded. You have to have an IQ number less than 75 to be retarded"); his mother is almost entirely absent, his brothers despise him and his schoolmates laugh at him. Yet he has "Gram", his crotchety grandmother, and his oddball friends at work. When Gram dies, having imparted to Perry some formidable, though eccentric, survival tips, his brothers sell her house without a by your leave, and Perry must fend for himself. Then he wins the lottery, $12million dollars worth of opportunity for his carrion-hungry siblings.

This novel of innocence vindicated and cunning confounded will not please all; the voice is very distinctive, and Perry's aperçus, for all their impression of saintly simplicity, can feel rather worldly-wise from someone with an IQ of 76. Yet it is heartening to read a story in which the tortoise wins the race, not because of his slowness (as in some crass anti-fable), but because of his steadiness, determination and wiliness. I loved it.

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