So a funny thing happened on my way back to the office after lunch on October 1, 2009 (and no, I don’t have a freaky good memory, just mad web searching skillz)… I was listening to NPR and came into the middle of some interview with some guy that had written a book and I think greeting cards were somehow involved. And you know how that is when you are coming into a talk radio program trying to catch up and figure out what is going on. Well, I was doing that and navigating the traffic and then all of a sudden I hear Neal Conan welcoming some caller named Tracy to the show and within the first syllable of this Tracy person opening her mouth I realize it’s TracEY and she’s a dear friend of mine from college who I had not seen in about six years. And here she is calling in to say she knows the author, Dave Dickerson and they went to college together and she was so excited to hear of his book and success and just wanted to say hello. And I know there were just too many ands in that paragraph but it really was all that.

AND… how cool and weird that we were all, in some way or some relay, all catching up with some part of each other through Neal’s show. Now, I don’t know Dave, but he sounded very affable and smart and I made a note to look up his book.

Fast forward nine months and Tracey and I are catching up over chips, salsa and a great lunch while she’s in town just for the weekend. I had not picked up Dickerson’s book, HOUSE OF CARDS: LOVE, FAITH, AND OTHER SOCIAL EXPRESSIONS (but I had looked it up and added it to my list to get, really!) In our chatting, she brings up her friend Dave and mentions that they have reconnected and she’s terribly embarrassed, but she needs to excuse herself to send him a text about some reading event that was happening right as we were getting our 37th refills of iced tea because we had been gabbing for that long. Then you know what she says? She says, “Let’s go over to the bookstore and if they have his book… I am getting it for you. I think you will love it.”

Now, I am never one to pass up a book–a free one at that. And, with it being one that was already on my list to get, well picture me pleased while I picture you all wondering if I am ever going to get to my review of it. And, I will. In just a minute. I promise.

So, while I was super excited to get this book, I was also kind of nervous. Tracey knows about this crazy reading project I am doing and she knows I write up reviews of all the books I read. Big deal, right? Well, I haven’t been in a situation where I am friends with someone who is also friends with the writer of one of the books I am actually reviewing. Tracey is cool beyond cool and would want me to be totally honest, which is great. But truth be told, there was a little bit of pressure. Just a tad.

Well thank goodness Tracey knows me as well as she does (college friendship plus 20 years and a facebook reconnection will do that for you). I really adored HOUSE OF CARDS.

The first thing it has going for it is that it’s a memoir. You all have pretty much figured out that I love me some memoir. Secondly, it’s so very well written. Very well. Dickerson is wicked smart (like so smart he creates those crazy puzzles that are published in puzzle magazines for other smarty smartenheimers that I can only imagine exist). He’s also a master with the rhyme and friends with Will Shortz. Yet despite all this and his mighty brains, Dickerson brings the same conversational tone that I overheard while he bantered with Neal and Tracey on NPR back in October. This made reading HOUSE OF CARDS like sitting and having a conversation with an energetic and engaging friend.

Third, it’s really interesting. In addition to getting a glimpse of life at Hallmark (which you would expect to be as warm and fuzzy as the cards they sell, but SPOILER ALERT: It’s not!), you get a peek into the life of a lapsed fundamentalist Christian virgin who at 29 is trying to connect with others and make a name for himself doing what he does best: write.

Hallmark plays a major role in the book. In fact, it’s almost another character. Dickerson describes, with much heart, the challenges and pain we all can feel when we are trying so very hard to fit in, locate like-people, and find our niche in an all-new world. Dickerson had envisioned Hallmark being a perfect landing spot; but, it proved to be one nut that was a pretty tough to crack.

The secondary story line that actually ends up proving to be of primary focus, is that of Dickerson’s personal history and his relationships. Dickerson grew up in an extremely conservative religious environment that he began to question as an adult. Despite initially converting to Catholicism and embracing more liberal views of the world (he’s now an Atheist), he found it hard to break from preconceived notions and beliefs that had guided him for so long. In his time at Hallmark, the rose colored glasses were coming off and it resulted in some hilarious, heartbreaking and cringe-worthy moments that may not be the experiences of the average modern male, but they were his own.

I guess you could say that HOUSE OF CARDS is a story that captures a window of time in the life of a man who is finding his way. A bit of a late bloomer who is finding his stride. A man who definitely has found his niche in the wonderful world of words.

Oh, and if you want to check out his chat with Neal, CLICK OVER HERE.

Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 384

One Comment

  1. fig August 30, 2010 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    I read a bit about this after you and I talked about it – it may be a memoir that I am willing to check out. 🙂

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