Books: A Simple Plan

I read A Simple Plan by Scott Smith because it was recommended by a co-worker. He usually spends his lunch hour reading history books in the break room, and we have discussed them briefly. When he mentioned a novel that he said was “perfect” in the way the story developed and concluded, I decided to get it from the library without even reading any reviews first.

I disliked it from the beginning, because I disliked the narrator’s character. Which is to say, I disliked the narrator as a character precisely because he lacked “character” – moral integrity. But I pushed myself to keep reading, because my co-worker had said it was such a good book, so I thought if I kept reading I would find what was so good.

I eventually got to a point where I kept reading because I was far enough along that I might as well know how it turned out, rather than keep wondering. By the time I neared the end, I was in a hurry to get to the end, see what happened, and then be done with it and not have to think about it again – once I had written this blog post.

It made me feel polluted inside, to be inside the mind of a man like that. It reminded me of having a similar reaction to another book, and after a little thought I remembered it was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I had that same sense of being in too close contact with something that, if it were an object I could touch, I would not want to get near even with gloves and a protective mask.

You could argue that this is a very moral book, because it dramatically depicts how “crime does not pay,” and how one bad choice leads to another and another, in a descending spiral of evil. That is undeniably true. But I would prefer such lessons without the feeling of having been sullied in the process.

A brief review by People says “A Simple Plan will make you feel like an unindicted co-conspirator.” Why in the world would I want to feel that way? When I mentioned, at last month’s book club meeting, having read this book, two other members exclaimed how much they liked the book, and were somewhat surprised to hear that I hated it. But then, they also enjoyed reading Gone Girl.

A review by the Los Angeles Times compares A Simple Plan to works by James Cain and Jim Thompson – and then points out how poorly it compares to them. I’m not sure if I’d like to read either of those, but I might consider it. I don’t plan to read anything more by Scott Smith.

2 Responses to Books: A Simple Plan

  1. Karen O says:

    Years ago, I saw a movie called A Simple Plan. Wondering if the movie I saw was based on this book. Sounds like it.

    IIRC, the movie was about a man & his brother who steal drug money from a crashed small plane, & all the horrible events that follow. Was that what the book was about?

    I thought the movie was good, but then again, a movie doesn’t put the viewer into a character’s head like a book does.

    • Pauline says:

      Yes, that’s the movie based on this book.
      I don’t know if I’d find the movie more palatable or not. The only movie I can think of that came close to giving me that same feeling was The War of the Roses, and I’ve only once found someone who disliked it way I did. To me, watching the two of them destroy their marriage – and each other – was like watching a murder in slow painful detail.

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