Monday, October 18, 2010

Fire In The Hole: A Year in the Life of the World's Sorriest Stuntwoman by Colleen Kelli

Reviewed for Review the Book
Published by iUniverse

I truly enjoyed this hilarious yet edgy book, Colleen Kelli had me laughing in the first paragraph, and in the next paragraph sensitive to the pain of the breakup of her relationship. Like so many people, the split between Colleen, nicknamed "Pea" by her girlfriend and partner, whose nickname is Pickle, comes in a standoff where Pickle takes a stance and says if that's what you want just go! And so it goes, with every kind of emotion, as this actress decides she hates Los Angeles and wants to move to Albuquerque. If that weren't enough personal trauma, her sister has just committed suicide.

Our heroine is definitely not your typical girl-next-door type.  She comes from a dysfunctional family, lacks confidence, and converses with an alter-ego named Trevor in her mind.  On the other hand, maybe Trevor is a steadying influence or guardian angel. Classed as a memoir, some is true, some is mostly true and some is strictly fiction, and what a fascinating imagination it is!

Her efforts and excuses, hopes of success and failure at the same time, really come to light once she auditions as a stuntwoman... no, actress,, stuntwoman it is, at a Western Town theme park, Gunsmoke Gulch. I’ve seen a Western Town theme park, and Gunsmoke Gulch sounds so familiar! The description certainly fits.

The characters are somewhere between misfit, accident prone, Shakespearean actor, and bizarre. Not Colleen, though, she is just a sensitive mass of confusion, bordering on the flip side of calm and rational. This motley group is one part family, one part support, one part zany and totally madcap, the whole becomes great fun. In Albuquerque she has been staying at her cousin's home, but as she starts her training, she moves out; well, kind of. Colleen heads back to L.A. to retrieve her belongings, moves her furniture into her new place in Albuquerque, then goes back to her cousin's while they’re out of town for a week, because they have air-conditioning, TV, and food.

There is so much underlying the humour in this book, I'm not sure I can really do it justice. It's a wonderful book, easy and fun to read, hilarious in spots, and heartbreaking in others as Colleen flounders her way through the miasma of her new workplace, learning a new vocabulary as she joins the others in the crew, doing everything from washing toilets to working stunts. All the crew have their own quirks and dysfunctions from Shakespeare-spewing Quint to "Murphy's Law" Bob.

The biggest problem at work that Colleen has, though, is being trained by Doyle. By the end of the first week, she is well into her training of making bombs, followed by punching on the chin, kicking in the groin (harmlessly), and trying to avoid learning how to fall off a two-story building.  Shades of Metropolis, every move is timed like clockwork! She is so tied up in time that she can't sleep. Soon Doyle is determined to have her hanging on a 30 foot flagpole mounted atop the hotel, three stories high. He is installing a flexible flagpole meant to "break", swinging her out toward the audience, where she is to "slip" and fall. The book reminds me of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

She has already had enough of trying to fall off roofs without breaking her neck. But under all this weirdness is a very depressed woman, one who finally seeks help.  As she tries to find herself again, her personal life is falling to pieces.  Behind all the laughs there is grief and insecurity, much like the adage of clowns hiding sadness.  This is what I mean by so much going on in the book, all taking place within one year, hence the title, that nothing is cut and dried.  Fortunately for us, the readers, her life is all laid out for us, and like so many others with similar problems, we have to laugh at what life has tricked us with. Colleen's quick wit is wonderful. This is an enjoyable and insightful read, you never know what to expect next and everything is a surprise.

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