Publication Date: November 12, 2014
In They Call Me Crazy by Kelly Stone Gamble, Cass Adams has always been a bit crazy but in recent years she’s gone off the charts to the extent that her husband had to move her out of town. When she’s found with her dead husband’s body, everyone knows what happened. Roland was well liked in the community and gregarious and no one knows what he was doing with Crazy Cass. Cass has always been a person without a filter and the quirky residents of Deacon, Kansas with the exception of her Grams and Roland’s brother, Clay, are ready to see her fry. Is everything as simple as it looks?
The author, Kelly Stone Gamble, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
There are certain works of fiction that are surprising and They Call Me Crazy is one of those novels. The story has hidden depths and sends a wonderful message as well as encourages the reader to be aware of how casually medical professionals and public treat mental illness. From the blockbuster first sentence to the ground-shaking last sentence, They Call Me Crazy is an all-or-nothing read and for this reader, it was indisputably all. Told from the perspective of several characters, the story is down to earth and thought-provoking.
Authors like Fannie Flagg, Mark Childress, Joan Hess and Harper Lee are favorites of this reader. The premise of They Call Me Crazy and its obvious calling to the southern fiction genre attracted me immediately. The story is told in several different and unique voices. They all have a southern patois. One especially brilliant chapter that conveys the attitude of the town folk toward Cass is told from the perspective of Daze (real name Daisy), a big guy whose mother was obsessed with flowers and who only Cass calls by his given name. He’s happy enough to see her hang and turns the story of finding her with Roland’s dead body into legend. She was running and he tackled her but, no wait, now there’s a better story! People call him on the inconsistencies but they’re all soaking it up. They’re relishing the scandal of a mad woman killing her husband. If they sat down and thought about it, they likely wouldn’t wish her ill but they’re so caught up in the drama.
Cass is a fascinating character that had serious problems even before she hooked up with Roland. At the age of five, she was the one to find her mother’s body hanging in her closet. Grams loves her and tries her best but everyone seems to think that if Cass looks okay, Cass must be okay and they have kind of let her live as an occasionally inconvenient oddity. Roland and Cass chose each other at a young age and stuck together. Roland is callus to her and sometimes cruel but though he may sleep around, he always comes home and that counts for something to Cass … until he starts to pull away and she notices that he might have plans to not stick with her for so long.
Clay Adams is a worm farmer and part-time hardware store clerk, well-liked by the ladies before he left for the military, Clay has been a bit of a mystery after his early discharge. There are rumors but no one knows for sure what happened. Gamble’s handling of this male character is with delicacy. He could have easily read as perhaps an unrealistically fall guy for everyone’s problems. Cass’s unwed best friend returns to town with a baby? No problem, Clay adopts the child. He does what’s needed and looks away. Gamble holds off on giving us any real hints of his true past, both with his brother and in the military, but when he does, all pieces click into place polishing a character already well fleshed out.
I won’t say much about the Maryanne and Sheriff characters except to say that they were both fascinating and unexpected in different ways. The charm of this novel is that though no one does what we expect, we can believe what they do.
They Call Me Crazy has one driving plot line with several threads and that plot line will culminate in if Cass goes to jail or not. It may feel like Gamble digresses, especially in her exploration of Maryanne (the former best friend) but everything comes together expertly, leaving the reader completely surprised at the end in the most thrilling way. Gamble’s use of regional dialect and first person fit well with her subject matter.They Call Me Crazy is truly all about what goes on inside of a person.
If you like southern fiction that is wonderfully written then read an excerpt and buy They Call Me Crazy by Kelly Stone Gamble on