Author: Bentley Little
I recently became acquainted with Bentley Little with his novel, The Store. The plot was not profound, but it still managed to deal with high concept themes like consumerism and personal liberty in a fun and accessible way. Having enjoyed it, I sought out another title of his and found myself reading The Association.
Like The Store, there is nothing complex about the premise of this novel. A young couple moves into a private subdivision in Utah. Days after taking residence, they find sporadic love notes from the association politely reminding them of the infractions they have made against the CC&R’s. The couple grows suspicious when they find dead animals on their property and their landscape vandalized. But this is only the beginning. The association is the law and they will stop at nothing to display their total control over the residents’ lives — even if it means killing people in the process.
I don’t have a lot good to say about the novel other than I finished it. That’s actually saying something, since I often dump books on a dime if they are not pulling their weight with me. It was likely Bentley Little’s approachable, fast paced prose that kept me going the whole way through.
For those who have read The Store, you will find the plot of this novel extremely similar. Rather than a Walmart-like store taking over a community, it is an association. Rather than having characters respond with sense and action, the residents in the association are senseless and passive. Neighbors are murdered, the inside of their home videotaped, and thousands of dollars are liened against their home, yet our witless protagonists, Barry and Maureen, fail to take any real action. Not until the novel’s end is the president of the association truly confronted. At no point do they legitimately try to escape the hostile neighborhood. Out of principle they stay at their home, thinking wallpaper will help protect them from hidden cameras and (even though spies secretly come into their house on a regular basis in the middle of the night).
The suspension of disbelief occurs not with the implausibility of the association having unlimited powers. It occurs because nearly every character in the novel is a fool. It occurs because at so many points it is obvious that the couple needs to involve someone other than Deputy Dolittle, who clearly is in cahoots with the association. It occurs because at every turn Barry and Maureen’s life is in imminent danger and they continue to do nothing but whine and try to resist the association’s power over them. They burn association letters and paint their house the wrong color and chalk it up to defiance while neighbors are clubbed or sawed to death.
For those looking to read The Association, I recommend skipping it and picking up The Store. If you’ve already read The Store, don’t bother with a sub-par derivative.