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Happy prix fixe menu at all the restaurants day. Why so many couples go out on February 14th when every restaurant is packed, slow and over priced is a mystery to me. Then again, I’m 80 on the inside. My favorite Valentine’s Day ever came a few years ago and it’s been on syndication ever since: Pasta with vodka sauce and forget about cooking off the alcohol. It’s glorious.

But first we have a date with Jack Gantos. It’s been a few months sine Hole in My Life and Dead End in Norvelt. Time to pay my dream buddy another visit. The Love Curse Of The Rumbaughs jumped out for its Tim Burtonesque premise. Because we all could use a good I’ll-love-you-to-death story on this day of smelly flowers and waxy chocolates.

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs

Ivy is a young girl the first time she wanders down Ab and Dolph Rumbaugh’s basement. What she sees changes her. If you found someone’s dead mother stuffed and taxidermic with empty eyes and no soul it would probably change you, too.

I found in that basement a certain symmetry of emotions – a balance between what is alluring and what is repulsive.

What changes Ivy is not what she sees, but what she learns about herself. Ab and Dolph, twins, preserved their mother because they loved her a lot. Someday Ivy will do the same to her mother because she loves her mother so much it keeps her up at night; so much she’s unwilling to part with her physical presence even after death. Her mother objects, but it’s clear she won’t have much say once life kills her dead.

This is a small, quirky story almost refreshing in its strangeness, considering its younger audience. The plot escalates beyond where I expected, but I started losing interest somewhere in the middle. There’s a huge chunk of expository back story about eugenics crammed in there, which deflates any dramatic tension and curiosity. Love Curse is well written with traces of the humor and honesty I loved in his other books. I was a little disappointed with the flatness of the characters, but what annoyed me most was the use of eugenics as a thin plot device.

Gantos is a great author, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one. His Joey Pigza stories are a blast. Hole In My Life and Dead End in Norvelt are my favorites of his. Love Curse strikes me as one adults would appreciate more than young readers.