BOOK REVIEW: Scarecrow Has a Gun by Michael Paul Kozlowsky

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Title: Scarecrow Has a Gun

Author: Michael Paul Kozlowsky

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: February 21, 2022

Read Finish Date:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sean
Whittlesea was there when his wife was murdered. He saw the light leave her eyes. He held her dead body in his arms. He knows he wept, but he cannot recollect a single other detail. Tormented by the tragedy, Sean relives the horror over and over again. As he struggles to recall what really happened, his imagination serves up an endless chain of scenarios. The truth, however, remains hidden in the vault of his memory, and
the key is nowhere to be found. Nearly two decades later, Sean, now remarried and a father of two, wins a bizarre contest hosted by his eccentric boss. The prize is the Memory Palace, a state-of-the-art black box that purportedly allows its possessor to relive every moment he has ever experienced, playing out all the memories on a screen.

While the small machine at first appears to be the answer to the mystery surrounding the death of his wife, it instead upends Sean’s life. He pushes his family further and further away as the Memory Palace forces him to confront harsh realities and difficult questions that he lacks the strength to face or answer. Spiraling downward, Sean encounters increasingly harrowing challenges that force him to
realize that his memory is not the only thing at stake. To recover the truth about his past, Sean must fight for his very life.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC Audiobook. I gave this book 4 stars, as my overall impression of the book was positive. Let’s start with the cover. My first impression, having not read the synopsis of the book, was that the book was a mystery / thriller starring a detective. I was under this impression due to the title “Scarecrow Has a Gun.” I was not correct in the slightest. The title is actually an obscure reference to the fact that in the movie Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow at some point in the film has a pistol, but that nobody seems to remember this fact. This reference is so obscure, that until the author made reference to it in the last 25% of the book, I had no idea. And even when the character in the book explained this reference, I am still not 100% sure I understand it in the context of the book — maybe that memories are not what they seem? That reality is not what we remember? I wasn’t too impressed either with the cover image itself. 34430839I think it is supposed to be a picture of the memory palace, but when I compare it to the cover of e.g. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King (see the image on the right), which is another book about a mysterious box, then the cover of Scarecrow Has a Gun seems rather dark and does not draw the eye. Based upon the cover, I’m not sure I would have picked it up at the bookstore.

Regardless, of my initial impression of the cover and title, I have to say that I really enjoyed the book overall. We meet Sean
Whittlesea as he is competing for a prize in his boss’s “widowers club.” Essentially, this is a invitation only exclusive club which is only open to widowers. Every so often (and at random intervals) the widowers compete in a contest to win an undisclosed prize. After several attempts, Sean finally wins. His prize: the memory palace. The memory palace is a box that when plugged into your brain, shows you past memories. Upon seeing such memories, Sean is convinced that there is something wrong with the box because nothing is as he had previously remembered it. Unfortunately, it is all too real and what the box reveals about his wife’s death will alter his life forever.

I really liked the premise of the book: memories are not what they seem. What we actually remember is only an illusion. It made me think whether there are certain memories of mine that are incorrect, or that I am not remembering correctly. Did I really see my grandfather being driven away in an ambulance when I was four? Or is this a memory I have reconstructed from stories told by my parents?

Although this book purports to be science fiction, I didn’t really see any elements of that. To me it would have been better classified as a “mystery” or even a “thriller”.  I mainly listened to this book while feeding my 6 month old baby or going for walks, cleaning the house, etc. It is an easy read and doesn’t require too much concentration. It is a great story to pass the time. The story is engaging and I definitely did not see the twist at the end coming. However, the ending left me a little unsatisfied. It seemed a bit rushed. I would have liked to have it drawn out more. It’s like we waited the entire book to find out what happened, and then in one or two scenes everything is explained and then its over.

The most interesting part of the book for me was actually the widowers club, and how the person running this club (Sean’s boss) was essentially “creating” better people so that they could benefit the company. It reminds me of certain cults. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more regarding the widowers club in the book. I would be interested to read more books in a series about the widowers club. I wonder if the author has this in mind, or if this book was just a one off.

This book will be published in August 2022. I would definitely recommend adding it to your TBR list.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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