I once read a textbook that said to be alive is to be addicted. People are always drawn to things which will fill in the gaps of their lives. Felicia Wood, the protagonist of Evelyn Cole’s latest masterpiece, Gambling For Good Mail, is certainly illustrative of that point. She waltzes through page after compelling page, helplessly addicted to mail-order shopping and men (although in a very benign and mellow way).

Gambling For Good Mail is a juggernaut look at Southern California life. From relationships to romance novels, religion to self-help groups and New Age treatment centers, this book traipses through life with a smile. How often do we think about life? What do we hide from? What do we run to in order to protect ourselves? Those are questions which Evelyn Cole inquires after through this novel.

I’m going to go ahead and do it. In my mind, I compare Evelyn Cole with another famous novelist who often concerned himself with California and its people: John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s California was gritty and raw, the crack in the world where the scum fell and was oppressed. Cole’s California is a much lighter place, but affected with the malaise of uncaring. Steinbeck had cracks in his stucco, but Cole has smooth glass windows with empty people behind it. They both weave tales of a land less than it should be, although each in a powerful and unique way. Now, Gambling is no Grapes Of Wrath or East Of Eden. It’s not even a Winter Of Our Discontent or Tortilla Flat or Cannery Row or The Red Pony. But with Evelyn Cole, I don’t find it hard to believe that such a masterpiece should be long in coming.

Gambling For Good Mail is not a literary risk, it’s a roaring triumph.

This book is available at Amazon.com.

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