No One Ever Asked: A Novel by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook, $14.99, 368 pages)
Sometimes a promising novel is destroyed by the story telling structure selected by the author. I found this to be the case with No One Ever Asked. The fictional tale, about racism and socio-economic differences that affect two public school districts in Missouri, is a worthwhile one. Ganshert well illustrates how racism impacts everyone – rich and poor, majority race or minority – whether it is overt, covert, deliberately hurtful, or inadvertent. And this would have been a relevant read for these times if only she had written the tale in standard chronological form. She did not.
No One starts with a dramatic event. The event covered in the Prologue – something a novel almost never needs, takes place near the end of the events covered in this book. Thus, the next 300 or more pages take the reader back in time to see what preceded the climactic event. The reader’s patience might not have been tried if Ganshert had taken 10, 20 or even 30 pages to “set up” the non-linear story in this unexpected way. Unfortunately, and regrettably, she used 300 or more pages to do so. Not only this, she often refers to events that, in legal terms, “are not in evidence.” For example, an incident that occurred in a boy’s high school locker room is referenced multiple times. But the reader is never informed, until near the very end of the telling, as to what exactly was involved in this incident.
Hiding the ball from the reader in this fashion builds up fatigue and frustration. I was ready to put the book down many times, for good.
There’s also the distressing fact that No One has so many characters – white and black, prosperous and poor, that you would need to keep a spread sheet in order to keep track of them. And the author’s style is not only confusing and sometimes bewildering, but often choppy.
By the end of No One Ever Asked, I realized that Ganshert had written a decent story which might have been enjoyable had she simply kept it straight (chronological) and simple. She did not. I am hopeful that an editor will advise her to follow the common path of storytelling in her next effort. Cleverness for its own sake is rarely a reward for the reader.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
No One Ever Asked was published on April 3, 2018.