Vastly satisfying and original………
Set in 1994, in this wildly funny debut installment in the Call Numbers series from Smith, a newly transferred young man struggles to find his place among the motley crew of his coworkers in a downtown New York library. When Robin Walker walks to the 58th Street Branch Library in New York on his first day of work, he is excited about the opportunities that await him. But his new workplace is nothing like he imagined it to be: disdain and hostility linger in the air; conspiracies, pettiness, and idiocy are in full swing; and people will go to any length to realize their ulterior motives. Struggling with his personal issues, Robin must do everything in his power to stay cool or risk losing his sanity. Smith’s large cast is both pleasantly freakish and entirely credible and makes a real impression: Robin despite his rudeness and self-absorption is an appealing everyday character. As a librarian (clerk), he is good; informed and informative. He can quote Shakespeare in the midst of his tirades— the action that fails to gain him a shred of integrity among colleagues whose hostility toward him continues to spin out of control. Smith depicts Robin’s difficulties with credibility and ease: in his personal life, he has past traumas to deal with; in the workplace, he struggles to find a place for himself. At times readers may find themselves questioning whether the drama of coworkers at the 58th Street Branch will become too much for Robin, but his resilience sees him through. The book’s strength lies in Robin’s hardiness with his ability to bounce back from some well-meaning mistakes. Smith manages to infuse rollicking fun into a wildly chaotic yet sad story, with each of Robin’s outburst revealing a new aspect of his traumatic personal life. Sonyai’s concern for Janelle at times feels more like a notion of philosophical experiment than an organic concept on Smith’s part, but the whole bunch of the teenager pages’ characters make for a delightful diversion from the pettiness and hostility of the grown-ups in the story. While the level of misery gets quite high with most of the characters neck deep in petty schemes, Smith also keeps deliverance and help within reach for his characters. Smith’s exploration of the complex themes of racial issues, unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy, bullying, and psychological abuse make it an unsettling, timely story.
Call Numbers: The Not So Quiet Life Of Librarians
(Call Numbers, #1)
By Syntell Smith
Syntell Smith Publishing
Pub date June 21, 2019
Price $15.95 (USD) Paperback, $24.99 Hardcover, $2.80 Kindle edition