The Tourist Attraction
The Tourist Attraction is a sweet and mild story that would, if it was shorter and less abundant in red herrings, have merited a higher rating and a recommendation.
Graham Barnett lives and works in Moose Springs, Alaska, running The Tourist Trap, a burgers, fries, and hot reindeer (no dogs) place that makes its money from wealthy resort visitors. Graham is a Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls type of hero – if Luke wasn’t the sort of man who would mock a guy who bought his border collie “new summer clothes”. Graham has liked precisely one of the tourists who has ever visited, Lana, who this trip brings along her friend Zoey Caldwell. Zoey, the first (former) waitress heroine I’ve read about since Sookie Stackhouse, has quit her job to – carefully and deliberately – blow her money on this trip to Alaska, which she can just about afford by sleeping on the suite couch of Lana, who is a sort of non-singing Judy Garland: wealthy, sweet, and pill-addicted. After getting thoroughly smashed on a “Growly Bear” at The Tourist Trap her first night, Zoey wakes up to a hangover and a devoted suitor – Graham, who’s decided to lay down his sword and shield as the old gospel song goes, and has fallen for her utterly.
The first half of the book is a solid little screwball comedy, that, while entirely obvious (communal nausea on a boat tour! A misbehaving horse on a trail ride!), is inarguably entertaining. Graham and Zoey are a completely believable fit as a couple. I never quite saw what it was about Zoey that made Graham fall into what is basically love at first sight, but nevertheless, they both score high marks for decency and lack of narcissism. I would trust either of them to watch my bag while I ran to the bathroom in an airport.
The red herrings and silly drama are the drawbacks here. Graham’s ex-booty call lives up the road and manages the resort, which never matters. And Zoey apparently has “police records” of “indecent exposure” (twice) and “destruction of property” which never matter. The third act fight Zoey and Graham have comes out of nowhere, precipitated by a hazily described act of violence, and devolves into Zoey snapping about “this toxic little town” as if Moose Springs is a setting from a domestic mystery novel involving disappeared women and well-dressed junkies at parent-teacher meetings. It’s wildly off note, since the town is never described like that on any other page and everyone is going to live Happily Ever After there. On top of that, Zoey’s behavior near the end earns her the designation of ATSTL (Almost Too Stupid To Live).
This is a sugar pill of a book – it won’t do you any harm if you read it, and might generate a pleasant sensation akin to a placebo effect. But like A Girl’s Guide to the Outback, which I reviewed a few months ago, The Tourist Attraction book should have remembered the phrase is ‘short and sweet’ and not ‘long and sweet’. I wish the story had stuck to the genuinely humorous tone of its first 200 pages and then resolved itself with fewer nonsensical plot twists, because I then could have happily given it a recommendation.
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