I picked up Addled not knowing what to expect. I got a hilarious story involving upper crust country club members, country club employees, and of course, geese. It all related back to the geese in one way or another, which makes the title's double meaning perfect.
Addled is endearing. I was enjoying the levity of the book, the way that it treated each situation as if we were watching it unfold in a terrarium of human society. The quotation on the back cover from Suzanne Berne compares JoeAnn Hart to P. G. Wodehouse and Erma Bombeck, but I'd like to also lump her in with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The characters' searches for self-identity and satisfaction remind me of Breakfast of Champions, especially in the non-linear, transformative experiences of Gerard and Charles Lambert.
The ending drags a little too much. At about the point where Phoebe engages in her "demonstration," I began to get bored. My mind started to wander as I read. And you know why? Because the geese had served their purpose; they had migrated away from the plot. Hart was trying to wrap up all of the various storylines that had diverged throughout the book, and she does a good job, but I wish she had been more efficient.
Moments of Addled border on romance, but the book retains just enough self-deprecation to avoid succumbing to the pitfalls of that genre. I feel no sympathy for Madeline or Charles Lambert. Actually, the characters with whom I identify the most are Gerard, Barry, and Vita. I'm pleased that Gerard found something worth living for at the very end. I love how Barry is just this adorable goof. And Vita is so strong, so fun a character, that I rooted for her all the way.
That's the sort of novel Addled is. You root for certain characters, choose sides, and then watch as the chaos unfolds. In this case, that chaos is thanks to all those geese on the golf course, and what happens when one man hits one with a golf ball....