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Welcome to Fred

By Brad Whittington

Welcome to Fred by Brad Whittington


Welcome to Fred

  • If 100 people see an event, probably about 10 of them won't have the faintest idea what they saw. "The building collapsed?!?! I didn't know that." Another 60 or so can relate the story pretty well, but with varying degrees of accuracy tinted by their own perceptions and biases. 20 from the crowd can tell what they saw accurately (though the sharpness of the narrative may fade). Nine people from the crowd will be able to tell the story in an accurate and compelling manner.

    Brad Whittington is that 100th person who saw exactly what everyone else saw, but in the retelling is able to bring out the bits of nuance and insight that even the nine missed. I don't know what his narrative about the collapse of a building would be like, but he can tell about living in a one-horse town (where the horse is often sick and always swaybacked) in the 1970s in such a manner that you don't just wish you were there, you are there.

    In some ways, I was there. Though a decade or more behind Whittington, I grew up in Texas (though the western side) and can attest that the people he was writing about were not caricatures. They were the people I grew up with. The kid who's too young to drive but practically built his own car and now terrorizes the back roads. The country folks who don't understand the city folks, and vice versa.

    Welcome to Fred is the first-person story of Mark Cloud, the son of a Baptist preacher who finds life as an adolescent in the big city full of adventure and promise. But then, his father takes a church in the East Texas town of Fred. Fred is everything Mark didn't want in a town and Mark doesn't think he fits in. Maybe he doesn't, and the reader will start asking whether this is Fred's fault or Mark's.

    The writing keeps you reading, which is what I think writing is supposed to do. Neither so simple as to bore you, or so complex as to run you off. The humor, which peeks out from the page in surprising places--rather like the next door neighbor's kid, who you want to be angry with but he's just so likable!-- keeps the book and reader from taking themselves too seriously. The fact that the humor sometimes seemed out of place for a "typical narrative" served to make the story seem that much more real. As if Mark Cloud is a real person (and maybe he is, named Brad Whittington) who can't help but find humor in life.

    If I have a complaint about "Welcome to Fred" it's that I wish the book itself--somewhere on the jacket maybe--had told me it was the first book in an ongoing story. Not knowing this led me to get to the end and think, "What? That's it?" I am excited to know another book is forthcoming, and other readers may read it and not feel cut off, but I did.

    Tom Bodett, whose success as a pitchman has obscured the fact that he's one of the best writers of our time, once wrote that the highest compliment he could receive for his writings would be for someone to read something he had written and comment, "Yeah, it's just like that."

    As I read Whittington, the thought continually comes to the mind of this son of a west Texas preacher, "Yeah, it's just like that."




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Welcome to Fred Web Site,

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