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seaside eccentrics and an autistic boy

Quirky, Cape Cod characters populate this coastal whodunit, though you don’t know exactly what the mystery is until the end.

Lynn Kiele Bonasia starts off every chapter in Some Assembly Required with instruction manual mumbo jumbo – the main character, Rose, was a successful writer of appliance manuals. The blurbs either make profound sense in relation to the story and characters or no sense at all – and sometimes I couldn’t tell which:

“Due to the nature of the product, we cannot accept a return on a unit that has been used. – from the Solution ComfortSeat Instruction Manual.”

“We accept no responsibility for crash damage. – from the HeliHobby RC Nitro Powered Helicopter Instruction Manual.”

“Risk of entanglement: Keep hands away from moving parts. Tie up or cover long hair. – from the Global Machinery Company Finishing Nail Gun Kit Instruction Manual.”

“Reactive forces, including kickback, can be dangerous. – from the Stihl Chain Saw Safety Manual”

“Sometimes the agitator will crack. – from How to Remove a Washing Machine Agitator on ehow.com”

Some Assembly Required follows Rose, a 39-year-old who quits her job writing manuals for appliances and moves to Cape Cod after learning that her long-time boyfriend cheated on her.

“Instructions. Rose hadn’t just written them, she’d followed them all her life. It was only when she realized she knew all too much about ceiling fans, curling irons, and cappuccino makers, and nothing about relationships, or life, for that matter, that it was time to move on.”

At first you may think this is your typical beach read about a middle-aged woman, her hot fling and the salty summer air. But then you meet Noel, an autistic boy who connects a community through his artwork:

“Autistic savant is what they call them nowadays. Just say Rain Man and everybody knows what you’re talking about. They used to call them idiots. Show me an idiot who can paint like that.”

Then Rose meets Simon, Noel’s alcoholic uncle who theorizes that God is also a drunk: “It explained everything .... It explained why sometimes He was just plain missing in action, facedown on a cloud somewhere, letting down the masses … If you looked back on history, you could see the times when God was on the wagon, times of significant human achievement: Egyptian times; the Roman Empire; the Han Dynasty; the Renaissance, when He was cranking out quality product like da Vinci and Michelangelo; or the sixties when he was sending men to the moon. And you could see when He was off during the dark times, the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reign of Terror, the Hundred Years War. … And just maybe He was sleeping it off in a celestial gutter the morning the towers came down in New York.”

Bonasia melds humor and heart in an artfully-painted profile of a small town and its eccentric inhabitants.

This debut novel is more medium-bodied fluff that doesn’t make you feel so guilty about indulging in a summer semi-sizzler.

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“seaside eccentrics and an autistic boy”