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COURTESY OF WILEY CASH

EXTRAORDINARY MISADVENTURES a review by Barbara Bennett Daniel Wallace. Extraordinary Adventures: A Novel. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

BARBARA BENNETT is an Associate Professor at North Carolina State University. She received her PhD in American Literature at Arizona State University and has published four books, including Understanding Jill McCorkle (University of South Carolina Press, 2000) and Soul of a Lion (National Geographic Books, 2010). She interviewed Jill McCorkle and Lee Smith for NCLR 2016 and has an article on McCorkle’s Ferris Beach in NCLR 2006. DANIEL WALLACE directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina and has published six novels, including Big Fish (Algonquin Books, 1998), which was made into a motion picture by Tim Burton in 2003, and was later adapted into a Broadway musical in 2014. Read his short story “Everyone is Some Kind of Animal” in NCLR 2013.

ABOVE Daniel Wallace (right) with fellow North Carolina writers Randall Kenan (left) and Wiley Cash (center) at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, 11 Oct. 2017

When does your life really begin? When do you start living a life of your own making rather than your parents’ or family’s or community’s? And how do you make it your own? Enter Daniel Wallace’s creation Edsel Bronfman, an ordinary man if there ever was one. He’s thirtyfour with no girlfriend or even potential for a girlfriend, he’s in a dead-end job doing something with data, and he lives in a terrible apartment with a drugdealing neighbor who robs him of everything he owns – including his favorite childhood cowboy hat. He’s not even sure if he’s a virgin (it’s complicated), and his only familial connection, his mother, is leaving him a bit more every day due to dementia. Despite all this, he seems content – or is it resigned? He can’t even work up enough energy to feel much of anything, not even the quiet desperation Thoreau talks of. Wallace tells us, “Bronfman’s capacity to anticipate the worst possible scenario in any circumstance was a skill he had been practicing since boyhood” (3).

And then one evening the phone rings. It’s a call most of us would hang up on quickly – as soon as we heard the caller say, “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes” (4). But Bronfman, as everyone calls him, doesn’t get many phone calls, and he lacks the social savvy to detect a sales con. So he engages in conversation with Carla D’Angelo, Operator 61217 of a company called Extraordinary Adventures. With just a few guesses anyone else could figure this one out: Bronfman has “won” a free weekend in Destin, FL, at Sandscapes Condominiums. All he has to do is listen to a one-hour presentation on timeshare ownership. Oh – and there are two strings: first, he must bring a companion; second, he has to take advantage of the prize in the next seventy-nine days. And the plot begins. Can Bronfman jumpstart his life, find a companion, and take advantage of this opportunity that is unlike anything he has done before. Bronfman is jolted by this phone call out of his complacency and passivity. He takes a gamble on

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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