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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown by James Hanna is a hoot and a half. What makes it so fabulous is the character/narrator—Gertie McDowell, 23, of Turkey Roost, Kentucky. The narrative consists of a group of her journal “scribblings,” and Gertie belongs in the top list of first-person narrators right up there with Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield. Her tales are wild and wacky, and she references the real author, James Hanna, as her consultant and editor. Her gullibility gets her into all kinds of trouble, including a prison stay in Martha Stewart’s former hoosegow in West Virginia for unwittingly participating in a methamphetamine distribution scheme. During her stay, she wins tampons and shower shoes by playing checkers. As the journal entries continue, we learn she can design dresses, sing bluegrass, play ping-pong, ride mechanical bulls, and squash worms for foot fetishists.
But it’s Gertie’s voice—oh, what a voice! You can just hear that backwoods Kentucky twang. And she’s quite the thinker with her deep questions about the Bible. How is it that Cain can marry with no women in existence besides Eve? How come Jesus fed the multitudes only fish—what about the meat-eaters? Oh, and wasn’t raising Lazarus a mistake? And didn’t Doubting Thomas have every right to doubt the resurrection? Then, there’s the men in her life including the Nose, Warden Jordan, Jean Valjean, Sancho Panza, and Armadillo Slick, to mention a few. And OMG, her country-hewn metaphors: “dumber than broccoli”; “blinked like a frog on a log”; her “pulse jumped like a grasshopper”; “he grinned like a possum with gas”; “eyebrows like wooly worms.” It’s really wonderful, and quite rare, to read a book that makes you laugh out loud. So, congratulations, author Hanna. You gave us more yucks in these downhome yarns than in a bucketful of minnows!