Friday, November 14, 2008


. . . and it's not just "Who killed Doc Johnson?", the well-liked chiropractor in Riverdale, Minnesota. We will get to that "something" later, but first the novel, "The Whitest Wall." I can say with both urgency and sincerity, this book is a "must read." Jodee Kulp has not written an ordinary "who dunnit?" She has done something extra-ordinary. With her ever-discerning pen that neglects no detail or nuance, she not only introduces her characters, she invites readers into their lives and allows them to experience their history and bahavior, their thoughts and emotions. When they laugh, you will laugh. When they grow angry, so will you. When they cry, your heartstrings will resonate and the tears may well flow. Her details include the red, white and deep purple flowers that patriotically dress the bridge into Riverdale and the agricultural green of Gunner's 1935 John Deere, "Betsy." Not only is this a rare and desirable talent, but it makes for a compelling page-turner that is next to impossible to put down.

To be sure, the search for the identity of the killer fills the pages with all the intrigue and suspense one would expect from this skilled author. But there is so much more. Ms. Kulp's vivid description of life in the city "gangsta" world, the insidious results of poverty and limited education, the cruelty and insensitivity of racism that rears its ugly head even in this small Midwestern community are so palpable that the reader is forced to search his/her own soul. And anybody looking for a compelling (and indicting) rendition of how we (should) treat each other will have more than enough sobering data to contemplate long after the last lines are digested.

Now for the "something" you should know. There is another "killer" on the loose. Kulp has an agenda: to inculcate in every reader a growing awareness of the condition called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). But "The Whitest Wall" is not a textbook on FASD. It is a story, an engaging, gripping story of suspense and human interaction. Certainly, FASD has a role, a critical one. But never does this agenda distract from or diminish the story of the human drama played out of the pages of "The Whitest Wall." But the FASD agenda is essential. After completing the novel and recovering from the intensity of the drama, I went to the Internet. I discovered that I was a total illiterate concerning this serious condition. Jodee Kulp has opened my eyes to the gigantic challenge of FASD education and condition. For this I am grateful. I will forever view my fellow travelers with augmented sight.

The negative. "The Whitest Wall" is Volume 1 of a trilogy. I have to wait until September 2009 for Volume II. In the meantime, it's "pins and needles" in anticipation.

Skip Vogel, Spring Valley, Minnesota -- Author "Constant Bearing-Decreasing Range"

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