Like Pulling Teeth


Anne Michael

I live in a pretty place. Flowers bloom all winter, one can get a sunburn in January, picnic on the beach in February, plant flowers and expect them to thrive in late November and lay by the pool at Christmas time. Living in Sarasota, Florida has a lot of other advantages to it than just the weather. We have an opera house, a concert hall and lots other things going on to give us a diverse and delightful selection of amusements without ever having to leave town. 

One of the delights is a thriving artist colony whose work is in evidence everywhere. Each year along Route 41, which curves along Sarasota Bay with its backdrop of sailboats at anchor, blooms with large pieces of artwork. These remain on display for almost a year until they are replaced by a new batch. It’s always fascinating to see what wonders the local artisans have wrought, and it’s curiously fun to gawk at the tourists as they photograph each other in front of some bizarre or intriguing piece of work they find appealing.  

A piece that is up this year is one that I find absolutely mind boggling. My opinion is not borne of beholding beauty but of the work it must have taken to create a two-story tall molar with roots, the sort that a dentist would pull from your mouth if necessary. (Happily the tooth is starting to yellow so it looks much less obnoxious than it did when it was white.) I admit to having an overwhelming urge to take an oversized black marker and put cavities on it. It seems rather obscene to me that a perfectly good tooth should be out of a mouth, so I fully expect, when the molar’s stint as an art exhibit by the bay is done, to see it sitting on the lawn of some local dentist’s office as an advertisement.  

It's not surprising that this dental boondoogle reminds me of a book that felt like it took an eternity to read and was just as painful as a tooth extraction—Kate Elliot’s Spirit Gate. It was a grueling mythical journey with a strange cast of characters drawn in such minute and endless detail to the point that it made it difficult to see any story at all. The plotting and scheming of the evil empire, the overwhelmed rabble scheduled to do battle with said empire, and their bickering and infighting were enough to make me wish I could set a match to the pages to get things moving along. The first two-thirds of the book were taken up with stage setting and character introductions. It wasn’t till the final third of that I found myself interested in the story.

I didn’t realize when I bought it that Spirit Gate was the first book in what will become a series. When I came to its unsatisfying and predictable ending I was more than annoyed. All those weeks of trudging along through the character studies as though in muck to my knees just to get to an ending that was like falling out of bed—just a small thump and a couple of bruises on my “assets” for all that effort—was a major disappointment. The conclusion was pillow soft and not in keeping with the drama and intrigue the thousands of preceding words promised.

I adore, as you may have surmised, the genre of sci fi/fantasy. This particular book had all the hallmarks of greatness, but ended up feeling more like architecture for a new video game. While there are a couple of embattled characters I would like to visit again I don’t think I have the heart for part two. I have visions of the sequel causing me to squander the time it will take to read a third of the book as the author catches the reader up on what happened in part one. So despite the fact that Ms. Elliot has created a few compelling and fascinating personalities, I will bypass the series. Reading a book should not have to be so excruciatingly drawn out and painful. The thought makes a root canal sound like a picnic. Perhaps I shouldn’t say that. If I need a molar pulled, as illustrated by a towering tooth along Sarasota Bay, I might read book two so it will numb my brain. It would certainly make Novocain redundant.

I live in a paradise. And it seems to me that my reading be as absorbing and pleasurable as the place where I live. There is no doubt Kate Elliot is a talented writer. I’m sure she has many fans. Unfortunately, Spirit Gate didn’t do anything for me except remind me of an artistic molar—and I don’t think it was what she mind when she wrote it. I know I didn’t have it in mind when I read it.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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