FIVE STARS

Tom Robbins takes the metaphor and the simile to new levels of originality. These are not just descriptions, they’re commentaries disguised as descriptions. 

“Maybe the clouds just got sick of all that publicity. Posing for Ansel Adams’s big camera had been okay…but now these weather satellites, these paparazzi of outer space following them everywhere. Maybe (the clouds) ducked under the South Pole in dark glasses and wigs for a well-deserved vacation. At any rate, not a cloud had been seen over the American plains in about two weeks.”

Funny as hell, insightful at every turn, Robbins gives us the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a young Grace-Kelly-beautiful gal, except that she has these enormous, banana boat thumbs, a deformity that allows her to become the world’s greatest hitchhiker. Sissy gets mixed up with The Countess, one of those guys who isn’t afraid to tell the world what he is: the king entrepreneur of feminine hygiene products. He owns a beautification spa (The Rubber Rose Ranch) out in the Dakotas, run first by cowboys and eventually only by cowgirls… this at the insistence of the greatest cowgirl of the bunch, a cute, pudgy young woman from Kansas City who rechristens herself Bonanza Jellybean.  

Soon the story encompasses oriental philosophy, the goals of psychiatry, the meaning of time, the roles of the FBI and the department of the interior, the importance of whooping cranes, and the international situation, which is desperate as usual.

There’s more: miles and miles of those unbelievably brilliant metaphors and similes and social commentary and mountains of ruminations on existential questions. In fact the only place the book bogs down at all is when we get to ponder the meanings of life and death and progress, and male nature vs. female nature, and human nature vs. natural nature. 

Bottom line though, this book is an intellectual exercise in joy. I tried to stop reading it because of other demands on my time… and I couldn’t do it. The audio book is great too.