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THE SNAKEWOMAN OF LITTLE EGYPT By: Robert Hellenga October 4, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     If you love reading text books, then THE SNAKEWOMAN OF LITTLE EGYPT is the novel for you because it is dry, with facts piling on facts piling on facts until one is tempted to take notes. In a society where writers are told to develop a hook for the beginning of their books, Hellenga instead drags them through a lecture on Lyme disease and the natural habitat of Mbuti natives before meandering through his protagonist’s town and his past, and then scurrying forward to meet his present day acquaintances — all in the first chapter.
     The author, a college professor, shifts gears like a race car driver, and I kept having to back up a paragraph to stay with the plot because I had blinked going around a turn. While I very much enjoy getting an education while reading, I do not enjoy being force-fed one. Besides, I also savor losing myself in a book. I could not do that with this one and was never wrapped up in it so that I didn’t realize I was reading. I was painfully aware of each word I read, and was so fatigued when I finished that the plot and characters remain, for me, undefinable figures on a distant shore. I admit, the language does ease up about when the author describes the interior of briefcases, and gives instruction in French gestures and world geography. Every time I began to settle into the actual plot, something popped up that made me wonder why it had been included, and in such detail, and I was rattled out of the story again.
     Remember when I told you not to finish a book you didn’t love? This is the second time since strewing that advice that I have failed to take it. It won’t happen again. The sad thing about this type of book, is that nobody wants to do what I have just done and confess that the book was a struggle to read because they fear sounding like an idiot. So this book will probably enjoy fabulous reviews (read the one on Amazon for the perfect example) while most of its readers sit in fear of admitting that they didn’t really find it that great and had to fight to find the actual story atop the lofty mountain of intellectual spewing.



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