Literary Minds Online Book Club: ‘The Caveman’s Valentine’

We did it. The Literary Minds Online Book Club accepted the challenge to read and review four books in four weeks in May for Mental Health Month. The book club was the brainchild of  the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency’s  Community Education Committee.

On this Memorial Day, we discuss “The Caveman’s Valentine” by George Dawes Green, the only work of fiction in the series. (Confession: Had I known that a movie existed of  “The Caveman’s Valentine,” starring  Samuel L. Jackson, I’d have probably watched it and saved the reading. But, alas, I didn’t learn of the movie until today. That’s OK, most people think books are better than their movies.)

This story is about Romulus Ledbetter, a homeless, mentally ill man who lives in a New York City cave. On Valentine’s Day he discovers a body’s been dumped at the mouth of the cave , but not before he catches a glimpse of the dumper, as well as the get-away car.

It turns out the victim is Scotty Gates, the friend of one of Ledbetter’s fellow homeless friends, who convinces Ledbetter that Gate was murdered, and he’s pretty sure he knows who did it.

For an added twist, Ledbetter is a former Julliard student, and a brilliant pianist. And he’s smart. And his daughter is a New York City cop. And Ledbetter wears a tin cap to keep the Z-rays from penetrating his brain. And in his cave he keeps an empty, broken television, upon which he “watches” flashbacks of his life, such as the day his wife kicked him out for good (clever way to tell Ledbetter’s back story).

He sets out to solve Gates’ murder, but he has obstacles, such as the fact that he’s homeless, and considered crazy by everyone. Even so, he meets inside a Catholic church confessional booth from time to time with an NYC detective, Jack Cork, who’s also trying to solve Gates’ murder.

Much of the story reminded me of that saying about just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t talking about you, because some of the things that Ledbetter comes up with do seem crazy. But, on the other hand, there’s some truth to his discoveries, too.

George Dawes Green does a great job telling his story in an unorthodox way in that we find ourselves connecting with and rooting for Ledbetter, someone whom, in the first few pages of the book, I couldn’t identify with.  In the end, some of his paranoia seems absolutely reasonable, and I’m cheering for him.

I don’t want to give away the ending for those who’ve not read the book, so I won’t say any more.

Readers, what did you think of the story?

Finally, before we go,  I offer my most sincere appreciation to the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency and its Community Education Committee, and everyone involved who made this first Literary Minds Online Book Club possible on aNewsCafe.com. Special recognition goes to the ever-talented Kerri Schuette, community education specialist for SCHHSA, who not only provided the books, but was our dependable liaison between the SCHHSA and aNewsCafe.com. Thank you!

And, as an aside, readers, what do you think of the concept of holding another book club in the future on aNewsCafe.com? Shall we try this again some time?

Click here for Week 1 of the Literary Minds Online Book Club, “Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia,” by Pamela Spiro Wagner, and Carolyn S. Spiro, M.D.

Click here for Week 2, “Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street,” by Lee Stringer.

Click here for Week 3, Breaking the Silence – Overcoming a Family History of Alcoholism and Suicide,” by Mariette Hartley (& Anne Commire).

Click here for the introduction.

doni-new-mugIndependent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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