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Welp, I made the mistake of trying to knock out a few days worth of posts in one day, and after taking a break to watch Agents of Shield (if you’re not watching it yet, seriously do, it’s getting really good), I decided to power on to chapter four.
I now remember why livetweeting Anonymous Tip over the course of a few days was such a chore. Michael Farris’ writing style can best be described as, “trying to write a novel like it’s a legal brief.” The whole thing is stilted and not at all like people actually talk in real life. I’m pretty sure my middle school attempt at Hardy Boys fan fiction was more true to life, and that story included the Hardy Boys thinking someone was trying to sell them weed when they were really being offered “pizza hash,” a delicious pizza with a bunch of random toppings (I’m only just now realizing that sounds like excellent stoner food).
Enough about my Hardy Boys fanfic though, on to the story.
The first part of the chapter is rather dull, blah blah, detailed description of the outside of Creepy Colonel’s house, blah blah, Suzie likes to show up early for their pro-life meetings because she likes being in a real home instead of her heathen coed dorm, blah blah, Suzie is super polite, blah blah, I’m putting myself to sleep just typing it out. Also, college is the farthest away from home Suzie has ever been, even though it’s only 360 miles. Oh, and Shirley Alper rode there with Pastor Randy Wallace because she doesn’t like driving at night, apparently because she’s sixty-five going on ninety.
I continue to hold fast to my assertion that Colonel Danners is creepy, he just sort of suddenly pops up behind Suzie as she’s looking at his family pictures. If Farris is trying to make him not be creepy, he’s doing a terrible job of it.
Mrs. Creepy Colonel Danners, Evie, doesn’t seem to have a personality or do anything other than serve fresh baked cookies to everyone, and doesn’t participate at all in the meeting. This doesn’t exactly help me like Creepy Colonel Danners, it just makes it seem like he’s the sort of overbearing patriarch who wants his wife to stay invisible in the background.
Speaking of overbearing, Invisible Evie reappears to sooth the Creepy Colonel, who is already getting agitated because Handsy Sidewalk Counselor Ginny is five minutes late. It reads like a beaten down wife trying to keep her volatile control freak husband from flying off the handle, and it’s making me super uncomfortable.
On to the meeting.
The group is worried about what they’re going to do this summer when Suzie and her group of student activists go back home, further proving that Suzie is the indispensable one around here and they really need to give her a hell of a lot more respect.
High school prom season is coming up, which means they’re totally going to need to recruit a bunch of people to fill in for the early summer. Prom season means lots of girls getting teen pregnant on prom night and then heading off to the clinic to fix their problem. Umm, this is just me talking here, but isn’t the better solution oh, I don’t know, TEACHING KIDS ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL SO THEY DON’T GET PREGNANT ON PROM NIGHT TO BEGIN WITH????? That sure seems like a way better way to prevent abortions than recruiting a bunch of extra people to man the picket lines, but what do I know?
Hooray! Creepy Colonel Danners finally acknowledges that Long Time Activist Shirley is way more qualified at this whole activism thing than he is, telling her, “Well, you certainly have more experience than me about this whole issue.” Naturally, that doesn’t translate to putting her in charge, because being the head is what the menfolk do, even if they don’t know squat about anything and are super creepy.
Invisible Evie remains invisible, however, she’s provided a coaster for Long Time Activist Shirley to put her cup of tea on. Why this is relevant to advancing the story or even creating a realistic universe is beyond me.
Long Time Activist Shirley suggests recruiting a bunch of high school kids to man the picket lines, because if having college students target college students worked so well, why not have the high schoolers do the same? That can’t possibly be a bad idea. Certainly none of those kids will sit down at their computer twenty years later trying to explain why that time in their life is the one thing they can’t blog about. And surely none of them are going to find themselves full of conflicted feelings when they discover that their photo is on the cover of a brochure written by a guy who is like the bastard love child of Fred Phelps and Terry Jones. And none of them are going to have the internal tension inherent in learning activism skills from someone you have grown to loath. Nope, not the slightest risk. Oops, sorry, I’m supposed to be talking about Michael Farris’ novel, not my childhood.
Ahem, now that that’s out of my system, let’s carry on.
Suzie thinks this is a great idea. Something about having positive peer pressure for a change. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like rather than offering peer pressure, maybe they should be offering options and support. I’m envisioning the girl in Juno standing outside the clinic talking about how “your baby has toenails” and “all babies want to get borned.”
Creepy Colonel is worried about how they’re going to find time to recruit and train all of these teenagers, since they’re all stretched thin already. Maybe they could get off the couch and do some of the work, since Suzie is the only one who does any work around here, but that’s too much to ask, so Handsy Sidewalk Counselor Ginny suggests her friend Lisa Edgar, who is single so this totally means she has nothing better to do with her time.
I guess Farris finally realized that writing three page chapters in a 460 page book is a bad idea, because we suddenly switch scenes to the abortion clinic, where the phone is ringing. It’s not Evil Clinic Owners from Godless L.A. calling about money and to complain about no-shows like she was expecting, instead it’s Mysterious Vince.
After teasing Mysterious Vince for the last three chapters, we find out that just like we expected, he’s her sleazy serial cheater ex-boyfriend. Booooring.
Mysterious Vince works for the Evil Clinic Owners from Godless L.A., doing something mysterious of course, and he’s supposed to fix their no-show and protester problem. Rhonda wants him to ask the owners to get off her back about money, but I have a feeling his idea of fixing problems is more of the mustache-twirling, super villain variety.
Man, we’re really jumping through unrelated scenes this chapter. Now we’re at the Pacific Street Baptist Church, which confusingly has both stained glass windows and plastic chairs instead of pews.
Enter handsome young stranger. He says he’s just moved to Bellingham and looking for a church home. Sounds sketch to me.
Oh hey, handsome young stranger’s name is Stephen Gray, maybe he’s Christian Grey’s long-lost real father. Wait, wrong poorly-written novel set in Washington. Sorry.
Fifty bucks says Stephen Gray is really Mysterious Vince.
Oooh, it’s Handsy Sidewalk Counselor Lady Ginny’s husband’s church. Very convenient. Yep, this has to be Mysterious Vince up to some sort of nefarious scheme.
We’re told “he skillfully turned his Bible to every passage in the pastor’s sermon and robustly sang each of the hymns throughout the service.” Apparently this information is intended to either throw us off for the inevitable big reveal, or it’s to explain why these people are such idiots that they don’t wonder why this guy suddenly shows up at the church and is super interested in Ginny’s announcement that they need more volunteers.
The World’s Most Naive Activists go right along with his story that he wants to get involved because his cousin bled out and died after an abortion and this must be stopped. I can’t believe that they’re actually believing everything this random stranger is feeding them. Also, interesting that his invented scenario is about a cousin bleeding out (thus reflecting the idea that abortions are super dangerous), because back here in the real world, our pro-life leader former friend went to prison because she was so pro-life that, while acting as an unlicensed midwife, she let her daughter-in-law bleed out.
Carrying on, The World’s Most Naive Activists are so snowed by this routine that they not only invite him to lunch, they try to set him up with Single Person Lisa Edgar.
Seriously, what the bleep is wrong with these people? By the next chapter they’re probably going to have him working with Lisa to train the high schoolers or something.
This is just not believable that nobody’s even wondering if he’s to be trusted. Some random guy shows up out of the blue with the perfect sob story and nobody even comes close to questioning it because he’s charming, can flip to the right passages in his Bible with ease, and knows all the hymns. Farris has written a group of idiots who shouldn’t be allowed to play with sharp scissors because they’d probably poke their eyes out. I don’t understand why pro-life activists weren’t insulted by his portrayal of the World’s Most Naive Activists when the book came out, because if this is what he sees as good representative examples of movement activists, he clearly think’s they’re too stupid to function.
P.S. Yep, Stephen Gray is Mysterious Vince. This is not going to end well.