September 5, 2014

To Die For Love Story: a review of Jeff Strand's "Kumquat"

by Jeff Strand
published in 2014
265 pages

I can't help it. I see that title and I think tropical porn. I am an odd duck like that, but so is Jeff Strand. Don't believe me? Just read one of his horror novels. This isn't one of those, however.

No, Kumquat defies classification, although if it were a film it would slip snugly into the romantic comedy genre. And if I'm looking for a writer that can bring the comedy, it's Jeff Strand. Dangrous Dan compared it to The Garden State starring Zach Braff. What a horrible thing to say, as there was nary a trace of comedy in that movie.

Todd, a nothin'-happenin' fella with a love of movies, goes to a pretty sad film festival only to have the time of his life when he meets the gal of his dreams, Amy. Too bad she has an inoperable aneurysm just waiting to go off inside her skull at any moment. Well, heck. They hit it off anyway, and before Todd knows it, he's ditching work, blowing off his under-achieving/hyper-sensitive roommate, and driving his jalopy with Amy riding shotgun from Florida all the way to Rhode Island. Just to try a hot dog.

The silliness of the book's premise is not lost on the author or its characters. There is as much quirkiness as there is charm,  aided by Jeff's gatling-gun style of one-liners and punchlines. But at its heart, the book reveals a very sweet, very simple relationship between two people with little to lose but still very anxious about taking some momentous first steps.

It's impressive to see Jeff Strand's range from horror to YA thrillers to rom-com, but I am kind of psyched to hear he'll be coming back to horror with a sequel to Wolf Hunt. I can't help it.

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