Save Me, Rip Orion by Matt Bower

Publication Date: September 10, 2012

 

MB_Save_Rip_OrionIn Save Me, Rip Orion Roscoe and Mitch were never the shining lights of their town. Roscoe’s claim to fame is killing the career of the local football star by hitting him with a car and crippling his leg, while Mitch stays at bars late to avoid his nagging wife and the crushing reality of unemployment. When an arsonist strikes their town, Roscoe recalls their childhood obsession, superhero Rip Orion, and he and Mitch develop a plan to become heroes. Can they catch the arsonist and save the town?

 

Save Me, Rip Orion is stylistically a cross between the southern fiction of Fannie Flag and the ultimate creepy guy that is Napoleon Dynamite. Deeply emotional, infused with humor and extreme plot twists and turns, Bower presents us with a very human story. Bower’s characters aren’t heroes and they’re not anti-heroes; they’re real people trying to do the right things, but not always sure what the best right thing might be. In the end, the reader is presented with a novel that is engaging in a very blue-collar, Bible-belt, regular-people-kind-of-way. In short, Save Me, Rip Orion is one truly compelling read.

Roscoe is a virgin who finished high school and started grounds keeping at the local cemetery. He lives in a very gray and hot little apartment that’s crumbling around him. Bower describes him in the first passages as an almost golem-like character. Thin, with his chin glued to his shoulder, and eyes downcast. Trying to be as small as he can be so that he won’t be seen…something that the reader feels he’s done all of his life. This is not a guy who craves the spotlight. Mitch is the overweight kid from high school that no one allows to forget how fat he was. Bullies called them “The Amazing Lard-O and Twiggy”.

In reflection of Roscoe and Mitch, there are Damon and Jason. Damon is the star-player that Roscoe injured in high school, and Jason is the former cool kid turned cop who deeply regrets the way he treated Mitch and Roscoe when they were children. Roscoe and Jason are trying to move on, but Damon and Mitch still hold deep resentments. These are people we all know. We may not know their inner battles, but we’ve met these characters before and we suspect that no matter how happy their endings, they have inner demons to be battled. Of course, no one said the ending was happy.

I will not spoil this book for my readers only to say that the ending was spectacularly done.

Save Me, Rip Orion—and I cannot believe I’m saying this—contains one of the most true-to-life descriptions of flatulence I’ve ever read. I am marking the passage for my father when I gift him the book because, and he’ll hate that I said this here, he’s lifted his leg my whole life when passing gas and I could not help but laugh thinking of him while reading this novel:

A few silent seconds passed. Then Mitch lifted his left keg. A flapping sound blasted from the seat, under his buttocks. (Amazon Kindle Location 1647).

One reviewer on Amazon suggests that anyone who would give this novel a positive review is clearly related to the author. The reviewer cites the author needing an editor and unclear plot points. I’m no editor but there were phrasings that seemed awkward to me. I’m sure there’s a good, sound, literary reason for using the character’s name once in a paragraph and then referring to him as “the groundskeeper” or “the fisherman”, but it confused this humble reader. The unclear plot point of what happened with Mitch’s family struck me as having a greater impact because of what is left to the reader’s imagination. In the end, I thought if what was implied happened, we’d have heard about it from the other characters but in the moment my heart broke for Mitch. He tells Roscoe early on, Sorry I can’t save the world with you, I’ve got to save myself first. There are many ways to save oneself.

I truly enjoyed this novel and believe that people who tend to lean toward cozy mysteries, southern fiction or stories about the human condition should buy this novel today. It was quick, it was fun, it was sad, it was the emotions of the rainbow and I loved it.

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For more information on Matt Bower and his work, visit his blog. You can connect with him on Goodreads and Twitter @boweratbat.