HAINES -- It is always a mistake to check my own books' Amazon reviews, but "Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs" has been having a good run lately, so I stopped in. I should have known better. What a mistake. Here is the "most recent" review:
"I'm still in the first chapter and already questioning if I will continue. Her style of writing is simplistic and frankly, quite boring. I've just finished reading some very well-written books and this doesn't even come close. I'll force myself to give it another chapter or two, but if I were reading this during the long winter nights in Alaska, I'd be fast asleep." She gave it one star out of five. One.
Well. I should leave now, but I'm curious what this anonymous reviewer praises. Not Jodi Picoult's "Lone Wolf." Stephen King says Picoult writes, "with unassuming brilliance." My grumpy reviewer says:
"The book was so slow moving and the main characters so transparent and uninteresting, that I finally gave up, skipped ahead, and read the last two chapters. Sorry, Jodi, you blew it on this one."
Still, she gave it two stars. Twice as many as I earned.
Elizabeth Strout's novel "The Burgess Boys" didn't fare so well either, no matter that NPR loved it.
"I'm up to page 87 and I can't take anymore. I have found this book to be boring, plodding, and uninteresting. I borrowed it from the library, thank goodness, as I cannot think of one positive thing to say at this point. I know, only to page 87, but nothing has grabbed me so far and I could care less about the main characters as they seem totally predictable ... too many great books out there to waste time with this one. This is the first book I have ever reviewed that I gave one star."
Well, at least I'm not the first solo star recipient. And I'm in National Book Award winning and bestseller company -- down here at the low end of the scale.
What does this amateur Amazon reviewer give five glowing stars to?
"The quality of gnome-related products differs widely, and some of them are poorly constructed or sloppily finished, but not this product! The quality of this swinging couple is excellent and people can take pride in incorporating it in their garden decor. Great quality, detailed painting ,and a conversation piece. The only improvement I made was to reinforce the rope hanger with wire. Probably not necessary, but I plan to hang it from my tree for many years. The wiring also allowed me to stabilize the direction of the hanging gnomes so that they always faced forward. I was originally unhappy with the rather expensive mailing cost, but it was well worth it as it was very securely packaged and arrived in prime condition. Two of the three gnomes I ordered elsewhere arrived broken. 'nuff said."
I'll second that.
Haines writer Heather Lende is finishing her third book of essays, "Finding the Good." This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.