Review: Midlife Mouse

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Midlife Mouse from author Wayne Franklin way back in May of this year. Even though I knew I wouldn't be able to read and review the book around that time, what with my upcoming wedding and honeymoon to take up my time, I intended to have a review ready by the end of June. At the latest. That...didn't happen. I don't think I even finished reading it by that time. However, that's not attributed to the book by any means; it just speaks volumes about my time management skills.

Anyway, I'll just start things off and say that I loved this book. I am a huge fan of fiction, specifically science fiction. I also have an affinity to procedural novels, like the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. Despite this, Midlife Mouse held my attention and enraptured me.

Midlife Mouse tells the story of Bill Durmer: husband, father, Disney enthusiast. But Bill's life takes an unexpected turn when his business goes under and he gets caught in the throes of a mid-life crisis. He's in the midst of questioning his life's direction when he gets a strange email from an even stranger source, which leads him to the interpretation that he should be living on the grounds of the Walt Disney World theme park. He settles for taking a job as a park bus driver but that's when things really start to get weird.

From the first paragraph, Midlife Mouse really grabs the reader. It starts en media res with Bill Durmer being holed up in a hotel room, peering out into the darkness of a Florida thunderstorm at night. Franklin introduces his character wonderfully, quickly showing readers Bill's self-awareness through simple lines of description like "he made it a habit of never speaking in a manner that could be described as a murmur". Franklin has a wonderful way with his characterization, making Bill a fun, witty character who is easy to relate to. He places a number of rules on himself, edicts he follows in his life He can be socially awkward, often avoiding eye contact to not have to speak with a stranger, but can go off on long tangents when a topic of his interest is broached. And we learn quickly that one of Bill Durmer's favorite topics in Disney.

One of the best parts about the book is all of the Disney-related knowledge Franklin sprinkles throughout. I enjoy Disney movies and figured I knew quite a bit about them but I could never hold a candle to Franklin's level of knowledge. Clearly, Durmer's passion from the topic is a mirror of the author's own love, which is great as it comes off as authentic and believable as opposed to shoe-horned into the novel just because an author has a clever hook. Each of those little Disney-factoids were perfectly placed, used to enhance the story behind the book and deliver some insight to each person that delivers them. It's all done really well and quickly became my favorite part.

Though it did leave me with a few questions, the plot behind Midlife Mouse is pretty solid. It's not overly complicated or difficult to follow; in fact, quite the opposite. Despite the simplicity of it, Franklin manages to keep it interesting by dropping plenty of red herrings into the story, throwing the reader off just slightly to hide his true intentions of where the story is going.

Flat out, I had a lot of fun reading this book. Having recently come back from a trip to Walt Disney World myself, I loved reading all about the different sights the theme park has to offer through different eyes, such as the Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe restaurant. Having eaten there, Franklin's description of Sonny Eclipse's cheekiness is spot-on, the stupid puns as groan-worthy as he makes them in the book. It made me smile when he mentioned the Dole Whip, a sweet treat available in Adventureland. It could be that most of my affinity for Midlife Mouse comes from the time in my life that I read it, but I really feel that it could appeal to almost everyone. If you consider any of the Disney films as one of your favorite movies, then it's possible that your heart is warm enough to enjoy Midlife Mouse.

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