In basic terms, writing the perfect novel is simple. First, you come up with a great idea. Then you write it in an engaging way. When so many books seem to miss the mark on both counts, it’s a relief when something comes so close to getting it right.
The idea behind Allison Floyd’s A Wider Universe is simple and beautiful. The story follows the Shepherd family: recently widowed Gene and his teenage daughter, Chelsea, who has moved from the family home to be with her good-for-nothing boyfriend.
Their two stories are told separately: Gene’s struggle to cope alone, in which he’s frustrated by the overbearing attention of a door-to-door Jesus salesman; Chelsea’s realisation of her mistakes and the process of putting her life back on track.
Gene blinked, irritated with himself for entering into this uncomfortable exchange. He vaguely considered telling this kid he had the wrong house; that he was Jewish, or a Buddhist, or a member of a satanic cult, any little lie to get rid of his visitor.
A Wider Universe has a mix of everything. It makes you laugh, it makes you think and it pulls on your emotions.
Sadly, this is the perfect example of one of the biggest problems with books submitted to Striking 13: it’s been published prematurely.
Aside from the far-too-frequent typos, Floyd’s voice hasn’t yet developed to tell the story that she wants to. It all boils down to one basic criticism of writing: she tells too much and shows too little.
From small details that are bluntly handed to the reader rather than shaped with nuance to the more alarming passages that go on for pages that tell and tell and tell. At times it feels like Floyd is simply sharing the details of a brilliant story that she’s read rather than sharing the intricacies of her tale.
While there’s always an argument for any style of writing, in the end this method of storytelling leaves out so much. Large chunks of Chelsea’s experiences and development are not given the attention they warrant, which ultimately detracts from the reader’s experience.
In short, this is an incredible story written by a developing writer. Floyd still has to hone her craft, but once she does, she’s sure to write something truly spectacular.