Title: The Man Who Ate the 747
Author: Ben Sherwood
Length: 258 pages (hardcover)
Two Sentence Summary: When J. J. Smith, Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records (like the Guinness Book of World Records) hears about a man eating a 747 to prove his love for a woman, J. J. knows he has to see if this is true. Once he’s there, however, J. J. gets a lot more than he bargains for when he falls in love with the same woman.
One Sentence Review: Although most of the periphery characters in the book seem one-dimensional, the book is an enjoyable and warm fable that I couldn’t help but enjoy.
Long Summary: By all accounts, including his own, J.J. Smith is ordinary. But, he does have an extraordinary job — watching people set records for The Book of Records. J.J. hasn’t been doing well lately, however, so when he hears about a man trying to eat an airplane to prove he how much loves a woman, J.J. knows this is the record he’s been waiting for.
When J.J. arrives in small town Nebraska, he finds the plane eater, Wally Chubb, and goes about trying to verify the record. At the same time, he finds himself falling in love with Willa Wyatt, the town’s newspaper editor and the woman Wally is eating a plane for. This, along with J.J.’s editor’s skepticism about the record, complicates the situation as J.J. tries to learn about love as more than just a statistic.
Long Review: While I wouldn’t call this the great American novel, The Man Who Ate the 747 was a good book to read. J.J. and Willa, the two main star-crossed lovers, are both charming characters you want to root for — even when what is best for one isn’t always best for the other.
As a journalist, I really connected with Willa and her need to protect the town she loves. She’s initially skeptical about J.J.’s role with the record, and doesn’t buy into the hype of having a plane eaten for her (even though it is a pretty awesome thing). Her devotion, and how she expresses that through her work at the newspaper, really struck me.
My biggest complaint with the story is that some of the other minor characters — mostly the townspeople Smith runs into — never feel fully developed. This makes some of their story lines feel contrived an as if they come out of the blue to wrap the story up.
On the other hand, the changes that J.J. goes though — learning to appreciate the grandness in small things rather than things that set records — was touching. I love the idea that the things we should appreciate are the things we run into everyday rather than the things that make the record books. So for that, I enjoyed this story as a light, summer-y read that made me happy without being too corny and simplistic.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!