Where books are chronicled from beginning to end, and never stop being read.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Fugitive Grandma

The Fugitive Grandma by Dmitri Ragano
Rage against the system.

Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

The Fugitive Grandma by Dmitri Ragano is an insightful, dark humored story. Something is seriously broken in our world. How often has a person considered going to the extreme to make a point? To right a wrong? To set aside fears instilled by the laws of society and let conscience dictate their actions?

Stella Valentine is a prime example of this broken system. Retired from Caruso's Grocery, she lives on a very fixed income. To top it all off, her benefits barely cover an experimental drug that allows her to stay cancer-free.

Stella is a fascinating character. She is the epitome of a time long past. There is an old fashioned moral code within Stella's heart that goes beyond fear, beyond hatred, and every now and then, it makes a ferocious appearance.

"It's just like that story with the girl, the grandmother, and the wolf. The wolf comes after all of us, Johnny. When my time comes, maybe there's someone there to save me and maybe I am on my own. So I got to prepare. You better believe that when the wolf come for me, he's going to get one heck of a fight."

The heavy hand of betrayal comes barreling through Stella's quiet life. She loses her benefits and her treatments almost overnight. Great American has absorbed Caruso's Grocery and has refused to honor any pensions or benefits. Dr. Whittier, who had been treating her with the experimental drug that has thus far proven quite effective, has refused to help her; instead, opting to let her die if she can't afford the "miracle cure".

Going one step farther, as Stella is hospitalized, her son Frank sticks her in an assisted living facility and sells her home and car.

Johnny Valentine is Stella's grandson. He's young and idealistic. Johnny's smaller stature makes him the target of bullying in school. Perhaps that is the putative reason for his deep desire to be a hero.

"Bullies do't go away when you get older... They just get bigger and meaner. So you got to know how to stick up for yourself. Nobody gets a happy ending guaranteed. When the wolf comes to get you, you can't count on some knight in shining armor. You better get ready to take the wolf out yourself."

Together, Stella and Johnny recognize the gaping void of betrayal and despair that have inundated their own lives. There is not a lot of philosophizing at this point. Consistent to Stella's character, the decision was simple and direct. They would steal from the corrupted individuals who had, under the guise of doing business within legal limits, stolen the lives of countless other struggling Americans.

Ragano's story is wholly original, yet the song is a tune that every reader has experienced from one degree to the next. It is the reason the book strikes a chord within each of us. His narrative comes off the page in a life-like manner and keeps the reader hooked in a fast-paced story.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's a simple irony that we tend to forget in the rat-race of life, it is preserved in our constitution and we are strangely reminded of those rights in books like The Fugitive Grandma.

This is the second book I have read by Ragano. His writing is strong and his theme stays central, on topic, and is always incredibly entertaining.

Dmitri Ragano lives in Irvine, California with his wife and daughter. He has previously worked as a journalist and technology consultant in San Francisco and Tokyo.

The Fugitive Grandma by Dmitri Ragano, 2013 ISBN 978-1470125370

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