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Book Review: Goods & Effects by Al Schnupp

Goods & Effects by Al Schnupp

Devastated by the death of her husband and sons, Hannah Mercer sells the family farm and creates a store and living quarters in a delivery truck.

As she travels several circuits selling her wares, Hannah becomes the heart of a network of interlinking Nathan owns the motel where Hannah often parks her truck. Darla is a young and talented deaf artist, whose parents let her accompany Hannah on her rounds. Wanda, the sassy receptionist at a hardware distribution center, has larger ambitions.

Naomi, wife of the pious Mennonite deacon, entertains fantasies of sexual freedom. Frank, a gentle farmer with a chronically-ill wife, harbors great affection for Hannah, but has troubling biases. LeRoy is a black farmer and talented singer, yet his family is subjected to racial terrorism. Velma owns a woodworking shop. Is she a good match for Vivian, Ronan County’s elegant, lesbian librarian?

Larry… Maddie … Tom… Molly. As time passes and Hannah’s relationships deepen, her faith diminishes but her vision of humanity expands. Hannah Mercer is a clever problem-solver, a shrewd schemer, a spinner of tender lies, an advocate for justice, and a dream weaver.

Goods & Effects Review

I was compensated with a small amount for my time and effort in reading the book and writing this review. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and are based on my honest personal experience reading the book. Nor did the publisher in any way shape or form ever pressure me to give a positive review.

In Goods & Effects we follow Hannah on her exploration of a rural Mennonite life. After losing her husband and sons, Hannah Mercer sets out on a voyage of self-reinvention. Selling the family farm and transforming a delivery truck into a mobile store and somewhere to live, she becomes sucked into a web of relationships that shape her existence as she makes her way through the maze of her new life.

We meet a voluminous cast like Nathan, Darla, Wanda, Naomi, Frank, LeRoy, and Velma, who each bring their own struggles and aspirations to the forefront, enriching the narrative with their presence. As Hannah’s connections deepen and her faith wanes, she grapples with profound questions of identity and purpose, ultimately emerging as a symbol of resilience and independence. Goods & Effects is a captivating portrayal of love, loss, community, and the indomitable spirit of the human heart.

At just 166 pages, this book is among the shortest ones I’ve read recently. As a result, I think its succinctness works well for keeping the flow of the narrative consistent and making the plot easier. If not, it runs the risk of trying to cover too much territory without having enough words to adequately develop each of its aspects.

And it certainly captured the historical ambiance effectively, transporting me to the setting of a Midwestern state in the 1960s. While I may not be the most historically knowledgeable individual regarding that period, I felt the book successfully conveyed the vibe and atmosphere of the era based on my personal experiences and exposure.

I am also glad to see that though the novel focused heavily on our protagonist Hannah, it still did a fantastic job of spending some attention on the rest of the cast. For example, I really appreciate the author’s integration and portrayal of Maddie and Darla into the story. Having them contribute to not just Hannah’s growth and development but their own. They feel alive from the writing, having a vibrant, three-dimensional feel.

This also definitely positively contributed to the world-building. Since it gives you a feeling of a real community where you might picture yourself engaging with people you may run across in real life. All in all, it makes a significant contribution to the world-building’s realism and richness.

I found Hannah’s development from grief to be genuinely compelling, driven by her own strength, capabilities, and resilience. What stood out to me was the book’s portrayal of tragedy since it avoided the cliché of grief magically disappearing over time, and instead replaced it with a more realistic approach. This is done by showing how unaddressed grief can linger indefinitely, haunting an individual. Hence underscoring the importance of character development and adaptability in navigating such challenges, serving as a catalyst for profound personal growth, for better or for worse.

I had not read a book with such a captivating tale in such a short amount of time, therefore I found reading this one to be a refreshing experience. Even though it was brief, the story was real and heartfelt, which made it quite pleasant. Furthermore, its easily readable format was ideal for me at this hectic time of restricted time. This is a book that is well worth reading if you’re looking for a short story that captures the essence of a lengthier one.

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About the Author of Goods & Effects

Al Schnupp is a retired theatre professor. He has written a dozen plays; many were produced in university settings, regional theatre venues and Off-Off Broadway. His plays tend to feature female activists and artists, such as Käthe Kollwitz (German artist), Peggy Guggenheim (Art Collector) and Ivy Bottini (LGBTQ+ icon).

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