The word maladroit is defined as “inept, ineffective or clumsy.” But there is certainly nothing inept, ineffective or clumsy about Kara Piazza’s debut novel, The Maladroit. Rather, the words that spring to my mind after reading this book are “well-written, engaging, suspenseful.” Piazza has succeeded in creating realistic characters confronted by unimaginable situations. The result is a story that tests the resiliency of the human spirit to survive extraordinary conditions. Add a lovable maladroit into the equation and you have a recipe for fictional excellence.
The maladroit in question is Kaly Aiton, a veterinarian. When she literally collides into a mysterious man, Henry, more than coffee is spilled. Kaly becomes embroiled in the intrigue surrounding Henry’s life when she agrees to allow him to leave his adorable bulldog Mortimer in her dog daycare. Subsequently, Henry disappears and a domino effect of disaster rain upon Kaly that turn her life upside down. Will she be on a collision course with death?
Piazza’s writing style is quite effective. Using the first person narrative enables the reader into Kaly’s mind. In addition, Piazza skillfully weaves into the story Kaly’s past reflections of incidents where she embraced her maladroit tendencies. The sprinkles of memory aid the reader in understanding Kaly’s journey. Further, the shift between past and present works in Piazza’s hands because she is an extremely capable writer. Kaly is the reader, really. We become invested in this story because in the back of our minds we may think whether we would be able to summon the courage if we were placed into circumstances beyond our control.
An inspired twist to this book is that everyman Henry and his dog Mortimer are not what they appear to be. Mortimer, in particular, will enchant readers. The way Piazza ties Mortimer into the central plot is pure genius.
There is nice pacing to this book that doesn’t overshadow the various suspense hooks. The story flow is comfortable and the mystery unfolds naturally. While Piazza’s strength seems to be characterization, she is careful not to sacrifice her plot. Each character (whether central or supporting) moves the story forward leaving the reader invested.
The Maladroit is an emotionally satisfying, thrilling ride that will appeal to all readers. There is a bit of a maladroit in all of us. Kara Piazza demonstrates that being a maladroit is not clumsily approaching life. Instead, we are victorious when we rise above life’s challenges.