One fine June morning many years ago, my brother, Jim, and I were eating our breakfast. We were each thinking of all the great fun we would have that day. Suddenly, our mother entered the room and said something completely unexpected. “The sludge will be here any minute.”
Jim and I turned to each other and said in unison, “Sludge?”
Our mother then explained that sludge was a substance that was one small step above poop and was available free from the sewage disposal plant. Moreover, sludge was good for the lawn, and it was going to be our job to spread the said sludge throughout the yard.
We heard truck noises, and our mother promptly hurried outside to instruct the driver. The truck promptly dumped its disgusting load in our driveway and drove away, the driver chuckling. Then Mom came back in the house and gave us our orders.
Each of us was to get a bushel basket, a shovel, and a rake. Our task was to dump baskets of sludge in a uniform pattern throughout the yard and then rake it all out. The sludge was heavy, the wire handles of the bushel baskets hurt our hands, and the job took hours. Our thoughts changed from “What fun we’re going to have today,” to “How will we ever survive this dismal day?”
The lesson my brother and I learned is that life is often unpredictable. As the years went by, Mom, Jim and I shared many a laugh over “The Day of the Sludge.”
Novels, too, are more interesting when they are unpredictable. Twists and turns in a plot serve to make a book more enjoyable. Here are some novels I’ve read and enjoyed that contain more than the usual unpredictable elements:
Gone for Good by Harlan Coben A girl is found murdered in her family’s basement. Her ex-boyfriend, the prime suspect, disappears. Eleven years later he comes back. A series of stunning revelations follow.
A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer Danny Cartwright is charged with the murder of his best friend. After four acquaintances, from well-connected families, testify against him, he is sentenced to a prison from which no inmate has ever escaped. Danny is determined to get revenge, and his fiancee, Beth, is willing to help.
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom In 1755, Shawnee Indians kidnapped a 23-year-old pregnant woman, took her to their village and held her captive for months. Thom has written a fictionalized account of her escape and one thousand mile walk home.
The Ruins by Scott Smith Two couples are vacationing in Mexico. They decide to look for a man who has disappeared in the jungle. They find some interesting ruins, but the locals tell them to steer clear. Do you think they listened?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card In order to protect earth from a hostile alien race, the government trains young geniuses to fight battles using what looks to be a video gaming system.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie Ten strangers are lured to an uninhabited island where they are killed off one by one. This novel’s alternate title is Ten Little Indians.
The Collector by John Fowles A young man, who has trouble meeting young women, comes up with a radical strategy. Fowles’ initial book is regarded as the first modern psychological thriller.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett Dr. Marina Singh travels to the Amazon to find the remains and effects of a colleague who died under mysterious circumstances. The search leads to a mysterious tribe of Amazonians whose women can conceive at any age. The eccentric Anneck Swenson has been studying and living with this tribe for years. Strange things happen.
* My ex is living proof . . . as to how stupid I can be.
* Never go to a doctor . . . whose office plants have died.
* Mother of a teen ?? . . . well, you now know why some animals eat their young.
* Life is uncertain . . . eat dessert first.
* Thoughts on birth . . . choose the stork.
* If I agreed with you . . . we’d both be wrong.
* Over the hill . . . is better than under it.
* Ever had amnesia and deja vu at the same time . . . I think I’ve forgotten this before.
* I don’t eat health foods at my age . . . I need all the preservatives I can get.
* It’s not hard to meet expenses . . . they’re everywhere.
* I wish the buck stopped here . . . I could use a few.
* If you think nobody cares . . . try missing a couple of payments.
* Learn from the weather . . . it pays no attention to criticism.
*A hair on the head . . . is worth two on the brush.
*Why are stairs inside . . . and steps outside?
*Bad decisions . . . make good stories.