Flabbergasted is a curious mix, a story that is at once light and humorous but also manages to speak on a deeper level. In fact, if the word chick-lit wasn’t out of favor, and if the story’s one-and-only main character wasn’t male, I’d be willing to suggest it fit into that category as the tone is similar. However, the story is narrated by Jay Jarvis, a twenty-something ladder-climbing stock broker newly arrived in Greenville, South Carolina, and recently dumped by his girlfriend. Now that he’s settling into his new digs, he’s looking for love.
You know the song talks about looking for love in all the wrong places. Jay Jarvis has no idea where singles hang out in his new town, so he asks the advice of his real estate agent.
At a quarter past midnight, I set my paint roller in the pan, the pan in the tub, my bathroom the latest victim in a week of odd-hour renovations.
Hands scrubbed, teeth brushed, I walked down the hall, cut off the lights, and fell prostrate across a mattress in my spare bedroom. A whiff of khaki latex seeped into the darkness, wafted past my pillow, and reminded me to be up at 8 a.m.
In the fuzzy state between sleep and awake, I reached to set the alarm on my digital clock. But I held the button too long and had to wait for the eight to come around again as I dozed and saw the numbers, saw the numbers, then dozed, and around again went the numbers.
The rumbling of a car engine woke me. It was Sunday morning. I sniffed the air, and above the fresh paint I detected the scent of females four miles away at North Hills Presbyterian Church.
The realtor says the singles in town rotate between the churches. Thus, Jay finds himself in a Sunday school classroom with a young woman who says, “No ring? Then you’re in the right place.”
Ray Blackston’s characters are not cookie-cutter. Where Jay Jarvis longs for a relationship while juggling eccentric clients, going to beach parties, and trying to fit into church life after an absence of four or five years, Allie Kyle is a missionary temporarily back in Greenville from Ecuador, and the relationship she longs for is one closer to God. This never comes across in a pious way. Instead, she’s a veteran food-thrower and a poet who spontaneously carves words into sandbars and dirt roads.
Flabbergasted is not a novel of easy answers. Sandwiched between hilarious scenes are deep thoughts, presented with a light touch. It was originally published in 2004 but has been repackaged and re-released May 1, 2010. I read and reviewed Blackston’s novel A Pagan’s Nightmare starting here.
Ray Blackston, of Greenville, South Carolina, worked as a buyer and a broker for eleven years before cashing in his modest 401k and leaving his corporate cubicle to write full time. He serves on the missions committee of his church, has traveled to rural Ecuador on a summer missions program, and coaches his seven-year-old nephew, Action Jackson, in T-Ball.