A MelanieM Review: Wallaçonia by David Pratt

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

High school senior Jim Wallace faces the approaching Christmas holidays with a mixture of hope and dread. To escape the pressure, he imagines the woods and marshes around his home to be an independent country, Wallaçonia, where he is accepted and recognized as the “upright and sterling” young man people expect him to be. And he may make it yet: this could be the week he and his girlfriend Liz finally have sex, putting to rest any lingering doubts Jim has about what kind of guy he really is. But then Pat Baxter, a neighbor, asks him to help out in his bookstore during the holiday rush, and Jim starts making new connections – and rediscovering an old one. Will Jim leave the sanctuary of his imaginary Wallaçonia for the real world? And which real world will it be, the one with Liz or the one that beckons from the bookstore?

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a beautifully written story of one man’s journey to self awareness about his sexuality and adulthood.  As you can imagine,  it’s not an easy journey.  Its fraught with the perils of expectations, the hurdles of high school cliques, hormones and feelings of inadequacies and so much more.

Sometimes I’m amazed anyone makes it out of the high school environment intact, even more a LGBTQIA youth questioning their sexuality.  The stresses and pressures from everyone, from parents to peer groups to society is intense.  It’s through David Pratt’s  character of Jim Wallace that we watch Jim and others around him try to navigate through rough waters to get safely onto the path that will lead out of town to college. Not all will make it.

Jim’s path is strewn with rocks and holes, some of which he digs himself.  Why?  Sigh.  Because he’s young, confused, scared, questioning…check all those boxes and create some more.  Nor are his actions ones that you will like, understand perhaps, but not like.  Fear and confusion can make you do some downright mean things, which Jim himself will later acknowledge.  Every character here, from Jim to Liz, to Pat and  more are layered, real people.  They are recognizable.  And that makes all their actions, relationships and interactions feel not only authentic but able to let us so deeply into their lives that we can hurt for them in their stumbling youth, wishing we could in some ways help make their paths easier even knowing, that’s not possible.

The narrative flows smoothly, I was swept so easily into Jim’s story, caught up in his life and that of those around him, not coming out until the book was done.  It made me think of all the young people it represents, past, present and probably future.  In some things, high school never changes.

Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a complex and gorgeous coming out and coming of age story.  It will stay with you long after you’ve put the book or Kindle down.  It’s one I highly recommend.

Cover art is touching and matches the character and story.

Sales Links:

Beautiful Dreamer Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published March 25th 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press
ASINB01N7JFT93

David Pratt on Wallaçonia, his latest novel and the Inspiration Behind it(Author Guest Blog)

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Wallaçonia by David Pratt

Title: WALLAÇONIA  (woll-uh-SO-nee-uh)

Publisher: Beautiful Dreamer Press, 309 Cross Street, Nevada City, CA  95959
Distributor: Ingram
Release Date: April, 2017

Available for Purchase at

Beautiful Dreamer Press

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have David Pratt back again to talk about his latest novel, Wallaçonia, and the inspiration behind it.  Welcome, David.

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“Who Is Michael?” by David Pratt

I dedicated Wallaçonia “to Michael, with my greatest appreciation.” I’d like to tell you about Michael.

One of the curious features of Wallaçonia is that it’s eighteen-year-old hero feels bullied and excluded, he actually turns out to have done some bullying of his own. Early in the book, he confesses to picking on a smaller, weaker, odder kid when they were both in middle school. He wishes he could see that kid again and make it right. For a long time I had that wish myself. I don’t remember when I decided to include this part of my young life in Wallaçonia. I just felt I had to. I had to confess, as it were. When I was a confused, put-upon middle schooler, I picked on Michael. In the book I call him Nate.

I have tried to find Michael online. Unfortunately his name is quite common. He wanted to be a rabbi, but even when I add “rabbi,” there are still lots of men with his name. One in particular is kind of a local hero in Oregon. Like Jim in Wallaçonia, I was irritated by chubby, effeminate, chatty Michael’s attempts to engage me over and over, to associate me with his weakness. I was also probably irritated that I responded. The cool kids, the masculine boys simply ignored him. As though he didn’t exist. I was drawn to him. And repulsed by him. The association with him was a sign of my fate, and I hated that and found opportunities to insult him or push him away.

I was never, ever violent with Michael, but, egged on by me, a classmate once took aggression against Michael too far. I stood there shocked as this boy gripped Michael around the neck and pushed his head back against a wall. I watched Michael’s face go red, his face in shock. This had not been my intention. I had tried to feel big and masculine by picking on Michael, but an even bigger, more real, more dangerous masculinity now asserted itself. Something we both feared. Something I had never meant to happen.

Of course, years more of being the weak one and the outsider, and I finally came to appreciate what Michael endured at my hands and the hands of us all. Michael could not disguise his effeminacy or his nerdiness. At the same time, he could not escape the clutches of an overbearing mother (in our one encounter she threatened to call the cops on me) and a father, himself a rabbi, who clearly had single-minded expectations. I wonder how the expectations and the effeminacy eventually sorted out. Did he become a rabbi, while everyone turned a blind eye? Or did he rebel? Move away? Keep secrets?

In Wallaçonia we eventually find out how “Nate” grows up. The necessities of fiction made me give Nate a future Michael very likely could not have. So while I appreciate what Michael went through, I really did not give him his due. (I am not saying just what I gave grown-up Nate that Michael could not have, because it would involve spoilers aplenty!) I still would like to apologize to Michael, if he could hear what I have to say. If there would not be a communication gap because I would be talking “gay,” and he would by now be far beyond closeted, going through the motions for a lifetime, to the point that he would actually be the motions. That would be a new level of Michael to appreciate. A communication we can never have. A person he can never be, never conceive. A book that I might like to write, but that perhaps can never be written.

“Sharp, focused, super-intense, and special. It’s rare to find a novel with such a beautifully rendered friendship between a young gay man and an older mentor. I’ll remember the relationship between Jim and Pat for a long, long time.”

—Bill Konigsberg, author of Openly Straight and The Porcupine of Truth

 

About Wallaçonia

“My name is James Howard Wallace, and I always wanted to be normal.” Every young man should have a mentor. Jim Wallace is about to prove for good and all how “normal” he is when he finds himself getting close to Pat Baxter, his neighbor next door. Pat befriends Jim, reveals to him his own heartbreaking story, and in the end helps him know who he really is and where he wants to go with his life. Along the way, Jim must decide what to tell his parents and his girlfriend, Liz, and he must confront an old acquaintance who unexpectedly comes back into his life.

Price: $13.95 – see sales links above
Trim Size: 5.5” x 8.5”, 270 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9981262-0-3
Audience: LGBT, Young Adult, Family Life

Trailer on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/211172226

About the Author

DAVID PRATT

is the author of three published novels: Bob the Book (Chelsea Station Editions), which won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award; Looking After Joey, soon to be re-released by Lethe Press; and Wallaçonia, a young adult novel released March 25, 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press. Several of his short stories are collected in the volume My Movie (Chelsea Station); three of these stories are being adapted as a film by San Francisco-based director Joseph Graham.

David Pratt won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award for his novel Bob the Book. He published a collection of stories, My Movie, in 2012, and another novel, Looking After Joey, in 2014. Praise for David Pratt’s Work:

For Bob the Book: “Sure to make you laugh…highly recommended.”—After Elton; “A rare and extraordinary accomplishment.”—Lambda Literary

For My Movie: “Character-driven narratives that cannily encapsulate small personal revelations and lead to gratifying endings.”—Lambda Literary; “An important voice in LGBT literature.”—Examiner.com

For Looking After Joey: “The laughs never stop coming; neither do the deep truths this tender book reveals on every page.”—Joel Derfner, author of Swish

Marketing:

National print and media campaign.
National tour: NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, Milwaukee, New Orleans, SF Bay Area
Free advance reading copies.
Blog tour.
Advertising in IBPA, Lambda Literary.
Social media: Facebook, dedicated web page at BeautifulDreamerPress.com.
For more information or to book a reading, contact Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management at michelekarlsberg@me.com.