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.