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Review: Effed Up by Russ Woody

He’s a pretty good guy, Robert. Reasonably honest, compassionate, dependable—okay, maybe he’s a little too sarcastic, but all in all, he’s a decent human being. Which is exactly how his fucked-up family takes advantage of him, and why, since college, he’s strived to avoid them.

With the surprising death of his father, however, he finds himself being drawn back into the horrifying familial abyss. At its core is Robert’s mother Helen: she’s the glue that binds them—or rather, the sucking tar pit that entraps them? After her husband’s death, Helen embraces the role of “martyred widow” with the fervor of Mary Todd Lincoln. Robert’s older sister is Darlene—a born-again Christian with a successful husband, two perfect children and an addiction to alcohol, pills and extramarital sex. She believes Robert judges her, and she resents him deeply for it. His brother Lenny, on the other hand, resents Robert because he has a steady income. Ten years Robert’s senior, Lenny is still trying to live out the rock ‘n’ roll dream with his dying band, Pink Lloyd. Plagued by an enormous lack of talent, thinning hair and a hanging gut, at 45, Lenny is wildly bitter about life.

Though his mother is vastly unimpressed with Robert and uncertain what he does exactly for a living, she’s smart enough to realize that he is her only reliable offspring. And she works his sense of humanity like a maestro. To Robert’s perennial chagrin, his mother adores his older brother Lenny, while she remains blithely unaware that he’s a colossal failure. At the same time, she casually lobs damaging asides at her emotionally teetering daughter with the abandon of a troubled kid plucking wings off a fly. But, when all is said and done, Robert knows that beneath the darkness of his mother’s disparaging and stinging remarks… well, there’s a darker side.

Things begin to change for Robert when he meets Amy, the beautiful sister of his gay, overweight, paraplegic neighbor. Amy is an astonishingly independent woman who captures his heart, and makes him realize that he doesn't have to remain the victim of a destructive family. Meanwhile, Robert’s getting to know and care about his sister’s 10-year-old son Danny. During which, he sees that Danny’s childhood is similar to his own—that Robert’s sister is another version of his mother. These revelations—in the midst of his family’s jaw-dropping acts of selfishness—lead Robert to make the most crucial decision of his life.

No one chooses the family that they are born into, but when you see one such as in this book, you wish you had the ability to do so. Completely lives up to the title, it is politically incorrect at times yet you laugh from crying, really takes dysfunctional to a whole new level.  A definite page turner, Russ Woody gives the reader a story that will not only make you laugh from disbelief but also make you grateful for the one that you have.

Told by the perspective of Robert Nirth, you really grow to feel the guy.  He’s the one who seems to be there when things are tough but isn’t really appreciated. A likable character, trying to make it through life, gets brought back into the drama that constantly cycles with his family. Afraid that history might repeat itself, he tries his hardest to separate himself and try to break the influences that keep creeping back into life. 

The main source of his frustration is definitely Helen, his mother, who probably is the root of his problems with women. Runner up to mommy dearest, she seems to constantly center her life on her own needs and wants with no consideration to the feelings of others. Definitely someone that you wish her mouth could be zipped shut, says things that make her so unlikable most of which is insensitive and offensive. 

As you get to know his father, Paul, you feel for him. You know the type who is married to someone who just accepts the doomsday package of this is what marriage is supposed to be like. He just sort has dealt with things without a fight. This was the type of life he lived. His life just seemed empty without an identity. When tragedy struck, it was then that Robert realized how empty his father’s life was. On a search to get to know who he really was, he not only learned about whom he was, how much he adorned and loved him but also gave him a different perspective other than what he had been led to believe. 

Then we have his siblings. Lenny, a wannabe rockstar whose band is a knock off seems too old to be living a life that is going nowhere. Despite being perfect in the eyes of his mother, little does she know the contempt he has as he plots and schemes to find ways to get her money. Then there is Darlene, which really is the apple that didn’t fall to far from the tree. It seems like instead of the cycle being broken, she continued it with her own family. Funny how much she despises her mother, but if she looked into the mirror, there would be a carbon copy. 

There is so much more that you take away from reading this book that I don’t want to spoil for you. Overall, I thought it was a really good story that really makes you think about your family when you read one like this. You really appreciate yours if you have a good one. The characters were definitely interesting making this quite the interesting read. Just to let you know, there are some moments that the characters say things that might offend here or there if you are sensitive to language but otherwise, I think you will enjoy this book. 

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Book Information
Publisher: NY Creative Publishing 
Publication date: 12/17/2013
Pages: 183 pages

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