The Big Door Prize
April 22, 2023 7:02 AM - Subscribe

Deerfield, Louisiana, is a sleepy small town like any other until the mysterious DNAMIX machine appears at the local grocery store. Deposit $2 and a DNA swab, and the machine spits out a ticket displaying the user's potential. Who can resist? Even as residents discover their callings, the past returns for a history teacher, a grieving student, and a Catholic priest. How people navigate hope, pursue change, and reckon with choices are the heart of M.O. Walsh's sweet and cozy novel, The Big Door Prize (2020).

The recent adaptation, starring Chris O'Dowd, is being discussed on Fanfare.

Southern Review of Books: "[T]he novel never loses sight of the human element. Walsh leverages it to highlight “the way that people are so quick to think without knowing, to assume without understanding,” causing them to rush to idealistic conclusions — and further away from life as-is — rather than trying to self-actualize within fate’s boundaries."

Kirkus: "An eccentric, well-written small-town novel jam-packed with appealing characters and their dreams."

BookPage: "More than solving societal ills, The Big Door Prize calls attention to the ordinary, hard-won joys of real people. M.O. Walsh’s second novel is a feel-good read in a down-home setting, with serious undertones."

And if you think the title is a reference to John Prine's song, "In Spite of Ourselves," not only are you correct, but you'll also be tickled by the nods to Prine throughout the book.
posted by MonkeyToes (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I read this one because of the adaptation. It's...fine? I think sweet and cozy may not be for me, but I appreciated the idea and look forward to seeing the show. It's light and essentially sunny, which is maybe not the right thing for a book dealing with serious themes like true callings and changing everything about your life. But then again, it's part fable, so maybe it fits? A quick read anyhow, and I liked the John Prine references (even, fleetingly, to a couple named Donald and Lydia).
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:15 AM on April 22

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