Perry L. Crandall is slow, but he’s not retarded. This is very important to him as he struggles against the teasing and impatience of the world around him. Patricia Wood does a fabulous job of telling this story from Perry’s perspective as he wins the lottery and has to navigate a family which is suddenly interested in him again after years of indifference, a world full of scammers and con artists, and his own circle of friends and work colleagues.
Perry was raised by his grandmother, and her wise advice is both touchstone and roadmap for him as he adjusts to life without her and to his new fortune. His best friend is Keith, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. Perry’s voice is consistent and enjoyable. He is a very compassionate and careful person who thinks deeply—if concretely—about the important people and decisions in his life, like friendship, love, work, money management, family ties, and living with integrity.
I enjoyed this book very much and will keep it to read again. One thing that really struck me is how important it was for Perry to have that one extra IQ point that kept him from being classified as retarded. It reminded me of a psychologist I have worked with who is often under pressure to “fudge the numbers” on IQ tests to drop them one or two points. In Manitoba, if a youth’s IQ is below 70, then they are eligible for many more supports and services, so the systems advocating for these kids are certainly interested in making sure their clients have access to those resources. I remember one case in particular where people were being particularly insistent that one young woman’s testing be revisited / re-administered / reinterpreted, and I happened to be nearby when the psychologist was asked bluntly by a frustrated community worker why he wouldn’t, in just this one case, consider re-assessing this girl. And the psychologist said “Because then we’re forcing her to be a member of a club she doesn’t necessarily want to belong to.” That really surprised me; until then, I had assumed that of course it was shame when the kids missed accessing all those supports by just a point or two. I mean, I would never support fudging the numbers because I’m a goody-goody that way and believe in ethics and professional integrity. But I was always a bit disappointed for the sake of the kid. But that day, I realised I had only been considering it from a service provider perspective, not from the perspective of how it must make a kid feel to know they officially have an Intellectual Disability. Reading this book took that more abstract understanding and made it real and personal and engaging.
Wood’s writing is lovely, and her insight into the relationships between Perry and his friends and family, and among those other people as they try to plan Perry’s future, is quite remarkable. I’d definitely recommend this book. Plus, who doesn’t love a winning-the-lottery fantasy?
Lottery by Patricia Wood. 2007. ISBN 9780425222201.