The book Charade by Gilbert Morris opens with the main character, Ollie Bensonís avowed obsession for mirrors - a bit of irony in that his true obsession is avoiding them in whatever way possible. The reason is that Ollie is grossly overweight. To the tune of 406 lbs. he's overweight, and because of it compromised in almost every aspect of his personality.
Though tops in his field of computer technology and in his private life as a gourmet cook, Ollie has allowed his weakness, a passion for food, and its consequence, to overshadow his greatest strengths, his intellect and creativity.
He has also allowed it to obstruct a normal social life. Ollie is an engaging person, genius if not wise, and kind, but few it seems are willing to look behind his mountain of human coetaneous tissue. This is his cross he bears and no pun intended, it is a heavy one.
Our overweight protagonist has only one friend, a co-worker who seems driven to repair Ollie's social life by setting him up with blind dates that are doomed to end in disaster. As a consequence Ollie gulps down even more groceries. He seems trapped in a catch-22 situation where he is compelled to do the very thing that merely worsens his problem, staying to himself and eating, eating, eating.
For the reader who likes to analyze, the title "Charade" has more than one application. The significance of it is many layered. Lying just under the surface of its principal usage, revealed as the story unfolds, are some less obvious hints at masking.
Ollieís reclusiveness is one example. What I saw in Ollie was the easy-going extrovert forced into solitude; John Candy cast in the role of a hermit. The best illustration of this is his habit of wearing Hawaiian-style shirts. Ostensibly chosen to cover flab, they send a less direct message, Ďhere is a fun-loving guy.í
And despite all the pain and discouragement fellow humans cause Ollie, one can see that subconsciously he still harbors hope for that one profound relationship that is someplace out there waiting. A true introvert gathers strength in solitude; but I sense Ollie is not really happy with the great Alone.
Into this most vulnerable vacuum of course must step the formidable antagonist, Dane; and close on his heels the henchwoman, Marlene. Ollie has invented a unique computer game called Moviemaker that is about to make him absurdly wealthy. A top software company has plans to snatch it up, but Dane having access to their intentions gets to Ollie first and cajoles him into hiring him as his personal agent and marketer.
The reader guesses all along that Dane is a con-artist and Marlene his accessory, but Ollie seems clueless. It is one of the most maddening yet endearing aspects of Ollieís character that he can be so smart and yet so naÔve. In California, married to Marlene, Ollie faces the end of all things at the hands of the two people he had come to trust most implicitly, his wife and his partner in business.
As the plot unfolds, in the process of conquering the enemy without, Ollie learns that his real enemy, not unlike the rest of us, is mostly inside. His quest for vengeance threatening to destroy him, he learns just in time what he is truly seeking. Something - or Someone impresses upon him a better way, the only way he can be truly free.
And so he takes it, following the path trodden before by four other people God sends into his life. And Godís providence is seen once again in His economy when the reader realizes Ollie is also Godís provision for these same four, and as well for others on down the line.
The catastrophic events of this book belie its true tone, at least the one it sang to me, which except for the panicky places, carries a subtle humor and lightness of spirit. Again, it is the John Candy chimera that does it. The pace is fast, but not too fast, bearing one right along like a willing voyager on waters of a swiftly moving current.
There are few flashbacks and those are minor, no padding. I read the book in two sittings and could have done so in one, were the night a little longer. It is written in first person POV.
Though I hate the hackneyed sound of it, I have to say "Charade" is a real page turner.
This is a very well written review of the book. It truely touched my heart. I am in no way a writer yet but pray that the Lord will bless me with the ability to become one. This article did hit home with me as I was a victim of Morbid Obesity from a child up to 7 yrs ago. I am 45 yrs old and most of my life was nothing but what I call "FAT EMOTIONS". I was a hermit and totally lived my life thru T.V. and Books,and I shall read this book.