Knopf, 2006, 320 pages
Honey Santana - impassioned, willful, possibly bipolar, self-proclaimed "queen of lost causes" - has a scheme to help rid the world of irresponsibility, indifference, and dinnertime sales calls. She's taking rude, gullible Relentless, Inc., telemarketer Boyd Shreave and his less-than-enthusiastic mistress Eugenie - the fifteen-minute-famous girlfriend of a tabloid murderer - into the wilderness...
The cover above reminded me of that epic masterpiece of crab literature, Guy N. Smith's Night of the Crabs. However, while crabs do play a minor role in Nature Girl, Carl Hiaasen's book is, while funny and, one might argue, superior to Guy N. Smith's book in minor areas like plotting, characterization, prose, grammar, believable sex scenes, and believable crabs, it is no Night of the Crabs, against which all other crab books must be measured.
But anyway, that cover up there is really pretty silly since Nature Girl is not a horror novel about crabs (all other authors having vacated the field since the incomparable Guy N. Smith established his mastery of that genre); it's a convoluted humorous caper about an over-the-top protective mother's determination to rid the world of rudeness by ridding the world of telemarketers. Well, one telemarketer. Well, she doesn't really intend to rid the world of him, just teach him a lesson.
Honey Santana is kind of a dingbat who lives in a Florida trailer park with her 12-year-old son Fry. Her ex-husband (who she keeps referring to as "your ex-father," much to Fry's annoyance) still loves her, and she still loves him, but even Fry can see that his parents, individually decent if very flawed people, are a hot mess when they're together.
One night Honey receives a telemarketing call from one Boyd "Eisenhower" who is trying to sell.... Florida real estate. Ahahahaha! When Honey gives him a piece of her mind for rudely interrupting their dinner, Boyd loses it and tells her off, which gets him fired, and causes Honey to lose it and plot revenge. She actually manages to track Boyd Shreave (his real name) down, and trick him into coming out to Florida for one of those free "get a free weekend at a hotel in exchange for listening to a sales pitch" deals.
Honey's plan is ridiculous if basically well-intentioned; she's going to show him how beautiful Florida is and teach him some humility. Boyd is one of those guys who's pretty much impervious to decency, reason, or humility; most of the humor in the book comes from his spectacularly unselfaware assholery.
Add to this mix his girlfriend, a hottie who's already so over him, a private detective hired by Boyd's wife to catch him in flagrante delicto on camera (she wants "penetration"; she's kind of freaky and also pretty funny, for a minor character); Honey's boss whose fingers were mangled in a strange crabbing accident after he sexually harassed Honey (coincidentally, Honey's ex is a crab fisherman...); a sex-crazy coed from Florida State University; a Seminole Indian hiding out in the Thousand Islands when all these crazy white people intrude on his retreat.
The story then plows forward bouncing from character to character in a series of zany and improbable encounters with the occasional bit of sex and violence.
Have you read Nature Girl?
Have you read anything else by Carl Hiaasen?
Verdict: An American picaresque novel that would probably make a passably entertaining movie. This was my first time reading Carl Hiaasen; he reminds me of a Chuck Palahniuk who's not trying so hard to be so damn clever. Nature Girl is nothing exceptional, but it's fine light reading.
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