Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Lottery": Heartwarming and Likable

The lottery reminds me of Gram. 
When we would buy tickets she would say, "You know, Perry, life's all just one big goddamned lottery. Some of us have brains, some of us don't.  Some people draw cancer.  Others win car accidents and plane crashes.  It's just a lottery.  A goddamned lottery." 

Hasn't everyone at some point in their lives dreamed of winning the lottery? We buy the winning lottery ticket and all the sudden our lives change unexpectedly for the better.  We pay off our debts, give money to charity, go on fancy vacations, spruce up our home, or even buy another house altogether.  We never need to worry about money again. Our kids can attend the college of their choice.  We can stop working and stressing.  Life would be easy.

What would it be like to win the lottery?

Most of us will never know, but for the few that win the lottery, their journeys with money aren't always smooth and easy.

In Patricia Wood's novel "Lottery" (2007), she presents the story of Perry L. Crandall.  He's a 32 year old with an IQ of 76 which as he tells us over and over again doesn't mean that he is "retarded" but "slow." He and his Gram took care of each other after his mother abandoned him.  Gram is a feisty old woman with many lessons for Perry.  "Gram always told me the L in my name stood for lucky.  And that I might be slow, but I'd get to where I was going in my own time." She encourages Perry to be his own person and to embrace all that he has rather than think he is less than anyone else.

Perry (called Per by his best friend Keith) feels lucky even before he wins a $12,000,000 lottery jackpot.  He loves his Gram and his best friend Keith.  He is a loyal employee at Holstead's, a boat supplier company, and he loves his boss, Gary.  He and his Gram have their routines and rituals - buying lottery tickets, reading Reader's Digest, studying words every day out of the dictionary, grocery shopping together, watching t.v. and living simply and happily.  When Gram dies, things go downhill for Perry as his evil family members peck away at the little bit that Gram left for him and leave him with virtually nothing.  No one from his family offers to help him, but his friend Keith and his boss Gary step in and set him up with what he needs to survive.  It's not until Perry wins the lottery that his life changes dramatically.

The vultures in his family want to swoop in and trick Perry into giving them his winnings in order to pay off their bad business dealings.  Their biggest problem is that they underestimate Perry L. Crandall who listened hard to Gram's life lessons about who to trust.  She warned Perry about his family and instructed Perry carefully about choosing who to trust wisely.  Not only did Gram give him the wisdom he needs to help him through the tricky business dealings after winning the lottery, he also has Keith, his best friend who selflessly protects him.

What I loved about this story is how lovable Perry is.  It reminded me a little bit of reading "Flowers for Algernon" and how a below average intelligent person experiences a huge life turn around with unexpected results.  In Charley's case, he won the brains lottery before it was taken away from him.  In Perry's case, he won the monetary lottery and what he wants with the money and how he handles winning are very different than what readers would expect.

Perry is endearing.  So is Gram.  So is Keith.  So is Cherry.  So is Gary.

Perry's blood sucking family members are almost too evil to be true, but when money is involved the worst in people can emerge.

The biggest surprise in this book is that it is way more a story about what it means to be fortunate than what it means to win the lottery.  During this month of gratitude, I am often reminded of how very fortunate I am to have what I have in my life.  I adore my husband.  I love my two healthy daughters who fill my life with so much joy.  I live on a beautiful street in a great neighborhood with amazing neighbors.  I have great friends and family members.  I am healthy.  I do what I love every day of my life.

Just like Perry discovers in Wood's novel, winning the lottery is way more than winning money.  It's about recognizing what good fortune means.  It's about finding what you are good at doing and doing it.  It's about finding the people who make you happy in your life and spending time with them.  It's about getting the people who are draining you of energy off of your back and focusing instead on what is the right thing to do.  It's about being honest and being exactly who you are regardless of what others think of you.

"Lottery" by Patricia Wood made me smile and even more than that it made me realize that although I haven't won the lottery, I sure am lucky.

Ordinary riches can be stolen: real riches cannot - Oscar Wilde

* A huge thank you goes out to Patricia Wood for donating 2 signed copies of her book for our November 2015 Winning the Lottery writing contest

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