Beth Leiss


"The Casual Vacancy"

J.K. Rowling

Little, Brown and Company (publisher)

Awaiting J.K. Rowling's first book since completing her Harry Potter series made me a bit anxious. Fans of her work had to ask themselves if they wanted anything resembling her beloved books that sold over 450 million copies. Did we want magic of any kind or a continuance of the world in which Harry resided? In my opinion, it was great to see a totally different kind of work from this talented writer. In "The Casual Vacancy," Rowling introduces us to the present day tiny English town of Pagford. The backdrop of this everyday life story is the unexpected death of a parish councilman who held strong views against the council head concerning the poverty stricken section of town that was built by a neighboring city but was the financial responsibility of picturesque Pagford. The pompous head of the council wants a vote to have the neighborhood funding reverted to the city and the poverty-born deceased councilman and his friends felt that Pagford should keep funding the town and its drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. The vacancy on the council fuels the egos of many of the friends and enemies in this small town.

One part of Rowling's known talent that shines through from her previous work is her ability to represent teenagers as intelligent questioning beings. The young adults in this novel are the kids of the adult characters but in no way are they or their actions secondary to their parents. Fats, the skinny, smart-mouthed son of the school headmaster, is disgusted by the inauthenticity of his parents and other adults in the community. Constantly looking for the ugly truth in everything leads this young man into a dangerous game that takes its toll on everyone around him.

The heart of the deceased man, upon the time of his passing, is focused on the troubled 16-year-old that he recruited to his girls rowing team he coached. Krystal is the daughter of a heroin junkie mom and the sister of a three-year boy who has fallen through the cracks of social services. Another family is ruled over by the abusive, criminal actions of the father who constantly creates fear in the lives of his wife and sons.

With the rest of the parish watching, there are incidents of computer hacking, gossip, drunken embarrassment and disenchanted spouses resulting in a page turner with out much need to stop reading. More than 500 pages long and light on my kindle I had very little excuse to not curl up with this book, kids permitting.

Beth Leiss was raised in Bismarck and has always enjoyed reading all kinds of books. Her dream is to pass her love of reading on to her girls as her mother passed on to her.