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Wonderdog

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Good ol’ Dev Degraw, the Governor’s son. He is the ne’er-do-well meandering through a disintegrating life in Wonderdog, a comedic novel by Inman Majors.

Dev is the 33-year-old son of the long-time governor of Alabama, who faces a re-election campaign this year. Try as he might, Dev can’t escape that imposed station in life. And life ain’t been looking too good for Dev lately.

He’s a divorced parent whose daughter resides with mom while Dev is in a relatively ramshackle apartment. Following the break-up of his marriage, he seems to have reverted to the lifestyle of partying college student, living near the U of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa and spending much of his time in the bars and nightclubs near the campus. This, of course, provides him with opportunity to chase women, even though he seems to have his eye on his father’s female press secretary. His inescapable role as “the little governor” and the desire to pursue the press secretary are about the only things that make him temporarily amenable to efforts by Dad and Dad’s closest adviser to involve Dev in the re-election campaign. Even then, Dev always hurries back to the carefree atmosphere of the Tuscaloosa bar scene.

Dev is also the former child star of a short-lived 1970s TV show called Bayou Dog. That’s no great shakes, though. Dev got the role through his father because it was filmed in Alabama. He considers himself the “worst child actor of all time” and most of the Bayou Dog scripts were rip-offs of previously aired and more popular television series. Now, of course, the long-time character actor who played his television father wants to have a series reunion — at a Tuscaloosa mini-mall.

And, as the book’s opening paragraphs point out:

Like everyone else in the world I am a lawyer.

And like everyone else in the world, I’d rather do just about anything else than practice law.

Yet that is one of the few things Dev excels at — not practicing law. His “anything else” is primarily spending this time barhopping and running up bar tabs. Still, while admitting he’s not a happy person, Dev just as quickly observes, “I’m not unhappy.”

Majors, who previously wrote Swimming in the Sky, says his only goal with Wonderdog was to write the funniest book he could. The book is replete with Southern humor, yet the line between humor and caricature is occasionally thin. (“She has summer teeth. Summer there, some ain’t.”) While the book is not laugh-out-loud funny, Majors has accomplished a difficult task. Writing humor is difficult enough without trying to build an entire novel around it.

Moreover, whether Majors intended it or not, there is ultimately a message in the adventures of a man trying to ride out the hills and valleys of life when also reluctantly caught in the reflected glare of political and media celebrity. As Dev muses near the end of the book, “…aren’t we all products of strange stories, improbable couplings, negotiating as best we can the great maze of predestination and chance encounter that makes up that which we call human life?”

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About Tim Gebhart

Tim Gebhart is a book addict living in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he practices law to provide shelter for his family, books and dogs.