MRS. SHUMAK’S BOARDING HOUSE

MRS. SHUMAK’S BOARDING HOUSE
Written by Marty Kam
Published by MKO Press

Mary Shumak and the seven boarders living in her house have a pretty stress-free existence. Even when Mary’s ne’er-do-well brother Bert is around, life is pretty easy. But corrupt developer Victor Masters wants to put an end to it all. Mrs. Shumak’s house occupies land that Masters wants to use to build a new casino, and he’s willing to use every dirty trick in the book to use it. Bribed officials, mobster heavies, and house inspections the place can’t possibly pass… he’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on the Shumak land. But Mary, Bert, and the boarders have a few tricks up their sleeves and refuse to give up. Now they just have to hope that one of their long shot, odd ideas will pay off and save the home they so desperately love.

BOARDING HOUSE is Marty Kam’s first novel, and it’s a pretty breezy, lighthearted affair. There’s no sense of true malice in any of the events that happen throughout the book, more of a feeling of the storm before the charm. Indeed, the characters living in the house are so broadly amusing and interesting that your rooting interest never wavers, and you never feel that Kam will err and give you anything but a positive resolution for them. Yet while in some books that would be a flaw in the writing, here it is essential. A good comedy, written or filmed, really only has one target to hit: your smile reflex. Kam knows it, and he aims squarely at the target, chapter after chapter. You only need to get to the climax, which switches back and forth between a TV quiz show and a blundered attempt by the mob to lean on the good guys, to see that the author really has a perfect sense of timing in telling a joke. Even a long one… and that’s a gift you can’t teach.

Kam himself has run a boarding house, and many of the characters in the novel are composites or tributes to the people whose lives he touched during that period of his life. Every creative writing teacher in the world tells their students to write what they know, and Marty certainly has done so. MRS. SHUMAK’S BOARDING HOUSE isn’t the great American novel, but it is a very good first effort.

Marc Mason