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The Clock of Life
By Nancy Klann-Moren
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Nancy Klann-Moren's The Clock of Life is one of those frustrating books I found a chore to even read enough of to give an honest review (for what it's worth, I made it about a third of the way through), because it's a perfect storm of every little thing I dislike in contemporary literature -- a genteel coming-of-age tale about racial tolerance set in the rural South, it has the cloying sentimentality of a Reader's Digest piece, paints its heroes and villains as broadly as a cartoon might, makes its thematic points with all the subtlety of a two-by-four to the back of the head, and follows not so much a plot as an endless string of easy cliches. Plus I have to admit that I was confused even by the time period this book is supposed to take place in; for while the first few chapters explicitly state dates from the 1970s and '80s, there are all kinds of references to things that sound more like the 1930s, such as someone mentioning the Scopes "monkey" trial, children fashioning fake coins out of foil that work perfectly in vending machines, and the state government apparently having no problem with rural families pulling their kids from required public education after the start of every school year. (And indeed, just like this last reference, the entire first chapter of The Clock of Life is an almost beat-for-beat aping of the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird, inviting a comparison that unfortunately Klann-Moren badly loses.) There's an audience for this kind of work, for sure, given that this has either won or been nominated for several literary awards now; it's just that I don't think any of those audience members are regular visitors to CCLaP, meaning that most of you should stay well clear of this admirably earnest yet overly sentimental morality tale.
Out of 10: 6.2