Lights Out Lizzie

Fiction - Humor/Comedy
118 Pages
Reviewed on 05/24/2024
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

James Hanna wandered Australia for seven years before settling on a career in criminal justice. He spent twenty years as a counselor in the Indiana Department of Corrections and another fourteen years as a San Francisco probation officer. As a probation officer, he was assigned to a domestic violence and stalking unit.

James’ familiarity with the fringe elements of society has provided fodder for his award-winning books. His debut novel, The Siege, depicts a hostage standoff in a penal facility; his book, Call Me Pomeroy, chronicles the madcap adventures of a street musician on parole who seeks fame by joining the Occupy Oakland Movement of 2011; and his novella, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown, follows the earlier blunders of Gertie McDowell. James is also the author of many short stories that have appeared in journals that like unconventional writing. Most of these stories are consolidated in his anthologies: A Second Less-Capable Head and Other Rogue Stories, Shackles and More Gripping Tales, and Fact Check and More Probing Tales. His stories vary from weirdly sci-fi to the equally bizarre world of the human comedy.

James' books have won many awards, including the Global Book Award for contemporary fiction. Lights Out Lizzie is James’ seventh book.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Golder Hazelton for Readers' Favorite

Lights Out Lizzie by James Hanna is an alternately poignant and hilarious chronicle of the further adventures of the author’s heroine, Gertie McDowell, who wanders through the world with the wide-eyed innocence of Voltaire’s Candide and the knee-slapping homespun wit of Mark Twain. In this delightful and unexpectedly wise sequel to his award-winning The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown, Hanna dishes up a generous second helping of Gertie’s absurd but profoundly enlightening adventures. From a ranch full of female former convicts to a Christian-themed traveling troupe of lady wrestlers (Gertie becomes the world champ!) to the unlikely arena of Kandahar, Afghanistan, where she has a rare opportunity to examine weightier issues like justice and mortality as she comes face-to-face with a wider world completely unlike her own.

Like all well-written satire, Lights Out Lizzie points out flaws in contemporary logic and society with laser precision. In this case, however, Hanna has greatly enhanced the accessibility of the art form by crafting a heroine and a cast of supporting characters worthy of Fannie Flagg, as earthy and down-home as anyone you might meet in the nooks and crannies of America; places like Turkey Roost, Kentucky and a dusty ranch outside Laredo, Texas. As offbeat as these characters might be, they are representative of us all because each is doing what she or he needs to do to survive in a complex and often ridiculous world. Couple these marvelous, indelible characters with some of the most colorful language ever seen in print (the entire narrative reads like a Who’s Who of American colloquial similes) and you have a one-of-a-kind, absolutely un-put-down-able novella. Read it for the characters, read it for the language, read it for the love of satire, but for goodness sake, read Lights Out Lizzie by James Hanna – it’s finer than frog hair split four ways, and that’s FINE.

Pikasho Deka

Join an All-American wrestler on her chaotic adventures in Lights Out Lizzie by James Hanna. When Gertie McDowell, a twenty-four-year-old woman recently released from prison for accidentally transporting crystal meth, is reunited with her friend, Wanda Sue, she wasn't counting on joining the Christian Ladies for Wrestling group. With three other wayward girls, Gertie starts wrestling, eventually ending up in Houston, where she unexpectedly beats the world champion, Samoa Moa. Trouble arises when Leo Hawke, the executive chairman of World Wrestling Productions, hires Gertie to put on a show for American troops in Afghanistan. However, soon after she arrives in Kandahar, Gertie is kidnapped by the Taliban. Now, between her feelings for an Afghani doctor and her impending death by stoning on the orders of a local village cleric, Gertie must try to find a way out.

Part satire and part comedy thriller, Lights Out Lizzie is a hysterically funny and surprisingly wholesome read. James Hanna takes readers on a humorous rollercoaster of a ride into the world of pro-female wrestling with a Christian twist. Hanna's characters are quirky, charming, and, above all, thoroughly entertaining. Gertie is pure chaos of a human being. She has an innocent naïveté that somehow helps her escape from the precarious situations she finds herself in. The culture shock she gets in Afghanistan is particularly hilarious. Even the secondary characters make an impression, especially Samoa Moa and Sheeva. The plot is as unpredictable as it gets, and until the last few pages, I couldn't guess Gertie's fate. If you're looking for a laugh or two, this is the perfect book for you!

Doreen Chombu

Lights Out Lizzie by James Hanna is a satirical and humorous story that follows the journey of Gertie McDowell after her release from prison, which was depicted in the previous book, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown. Gertie becomes part of an unconventional Christian wrestling group for women and subsequently travels to Afghanistan. Although she does not understand her newfound fame, she is happy to be part of something unique. Before traveling to Afghanistan, she learns about the harsh treatment of women in the Middle East and hopes she won't end up in trouble. However, her lack of experience, naivety, and empathy for others leads her into difficult situations but also becomes her salvation. She experiences the Afghan way of life with the locals and even finds love, but almost gets stoned to death.

Lights Out Lizzie is easily one of the funniest books I've ever read. The author manages to tread the line between cringe-worthy and hilarious perfectly, and I found myself laughing out loud multiple times. Gertie has relatable doubts, and the humorous situations she finds herself in make for an entertaining and engaging read. Her unique and lyrical tone enhances the narrative, making it a pleasurable read. James Hanna tackles various social issues such as the impact of war, women's rights, death, and religion. His approach is subtle yet effective, delving into human nature and the consequences of our choices. The story is equally insightful, exploring growth and self-discovery. Gertie is a fascinating character that readers will love getting to know, and I would be thrilled to read more adventures about her in the future. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys funny stories with thought-provoking themes.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

In Lights Out Lizzie by James Hanna, the author continues the story of Gertie McDowell, a sweet Kentucky girl in her early twenties who has a way of landing herself in odd situations. Gertie is staying in Texas with her friend's chickens while her friend serves time in the penitentiary. Another prison acquaintance entices her to join the Christian Ladies of Wrestling. Gertie is mostly uninterested, but she allows the woman to guide her and three other women through wrestling skits meant to appeal to Christians. A professional woman wrestler, Samoa Moa, challenges the team to a match, and Gertie's win draws national attention, reawakening her childhood nickname, Lights Out Lizzie. Gertie and Samoa Moa wrestle for American soldiers in Afghanistan, but a kidnapping results in an unfortunate situation without an alternative. A Taliban chief has followed her popularity, and he wants to claim her as his fourth wife.

James Hanna has developed a loveable character that readers will adore. Whether you fall in love with Gertie's Southern drawl or worry about her tumbling into another unfortunate situation, you are along for the ride. As Gertie narrates, you can see her naivety, and how her trusting nature allows her to get talked into almost anything by anyone. Many times, she uses information from the Bible to guide her, but no one gives her the context to see it more clearly. Many of the people Gertie meets try to take care of her, as they see her inability to look at the world through a harsher lens. Humor is present throughout the novel as Gertie details events she only partially understands, like her belief that "getting stoned" is nothing more than the offer of recreational drugs. Readers who like hilarious stories with action, adventure, and a touch of romance will enjoy Lights Out Lizzie.

K.C. Finn

Lights Out Lizzie is a work of fiction in the humor, slice-of-life, and sports fiction genres. Penned by author James Hanna, this charming novel follows Gertie McDowell, a naive young woman who joins the Christian Ladies of Wrestling, a troupe where women pose as Christians and wrestle others pretending to be sinners. As Gertie grapples with doubts about her involvement, her ambivalence grows when she travels to Afghanistan to perform for American troops. With her best friend's ominous warning echoing in her mind, Gertie attempts to navigate cultural clashes and potential danger, hoping to avoid the perils of both bombs and tribal chieftains.

Author James Hanna has a fantastic sense of humor that offers readers a wild and entertaining ride with strong narrative control. Hanna's writing style effortlessly combines wit and grit, creating a story that is both hilarious and thought-provoking, which is also still grounded in realistic emotions. This is further enhanced by the authentic-sounding dialogue that gives each character a unique twist and a recognizable attitude. Gertie's journey from a naive young woman to an unlikely wrestling star is both amusing and poignant as she meets the interesting new people around her and grapples with forging her own identity and beliefs. The approach to war and conflict is an interesting angle that the author handles well, offering levity in the face of difficult times, but also never belittling the subject matter. The roller coaster of emotions and action-packed scenes are sure to keep readers thoroughly engaged from start to finish, while its underlying themes of friendship, courage, and cultural understanding subtly sink into readers' hearts. Overall, Lights Out Lizzie is a must-read for anyone looking for a unique blend of humor and adventure in their next dramatic read.