"Vivian's Song" will catch you by surprise. The book basically starts towards the middle of the story. A state senator, Charles Wentworth, is informed that a cult leader and his followers are moving to the quiet, little town of Bandicoot, Missouri. The good senator is shocked and outraged, and we can't help but feel a little sympathy for the guy. Then, an interesting thing happens. The author takes us back in time to see how William Joseph 'Duke' Tanner becomes the manipulative leader of a cult. This trip back in time allows us to see that Duke is just a normal cowboy from Texas. He's a good-hearted and good-natured guy whose unique views on the world, combined with his dissatisfaction of traditional religion, leads him to form a unique system that some others mistakenly view as a new religion. Duke's goal is simple. He wants to show people how to make money and find happiness, while making money and finding happiness himself.
He's aided in his quest by his wife, Melody Birdsong. Like Duke, Melody has led an interesting life that's had its fair share of up's and down's. When the two literally bump into each other, it seems like destiny has drawn them together. Duke and Melody are soon joined by other colorful characters, each one a friend or acquaintance from Duke's past. A real estate venture leads to all of them living in the same area, which they jokingly refer to as 'The Compound.' Duke's business has grown beyond even his wildest dreams and when he decides it's time to find a new location, Melody's spirit guide, a bird named Vivian, leads them to Bandicoot.
By the time we catch up to where the book started, we're able to see things from a new perspective. Duke isn't the evil cult leader that a few select individuals see him as, and the 'good' senator's motives become questionable. The two large personalities are headed for a collision that will provide laughs through almost every turn of the page towards the end of the book. The imaginative use of acronyms to get various points across, while still maintaining levity, is one of the most hilarious points in the book.
I wasn't entirely thrilled with such in-depth backgrounds being provided on so many characters. We naturally need the whole story on Duke but I feel that a few people, Melody included, could have done with just a few paragraphs of information, instead of an in-depth biography.
Even with the extra character information, the book maintained a steady pace and kept me interested through the whole story. Entertaining, humorous, and a little thought provoking, "Vivian's Song" will leave you intrigued and amused.