Lisa Sandlin’s “The Do-Right” offers two stories that intertwine with the central plot. As a debut novel, the book does well in its gritty and poetic nature to execute the storylines of the female and male leads, as well as narrate with such vivid language and detail.
In “The Do-Right,” the audience is introduced to Tom Phelan, a private eye who appears to be on more than one case in this story, because the novel takes every opportunity to show what he does in his occupation. Phelan’s storyline is like a series of scenarios that can be related to cop shows like NCIS and Blue Bloods, but it’s still careful not to distract from the central plot. Therefore, it’s fitting that he’s a supporting character to the protagonist.
However, the focal point of the story comes from the character Delpha Wade, an ex-convict having served fourteen years in prison for murdering one of her rapists, trying to live somewhat of a normal life, even though she finds it hard to shake off what to her years before. This difficulty to achieve a better life affects her when it comes to her relationship with Issac, her two jobs, and what she does in her spare time.
Both lead characters offer such grit and charisma that they work well as a duo, despite their different backgrounds. Therefore, Sandlin expressing the different worlds of these two characters become the makings of a team from any legitimate cop show.
There were many elements to take away from “The Do-Right”: the writing itself, the dialogue, the flow of the narrative, and the moral.
The writing is poetic in its prose, because Sandlin creates such rapid yet easy flows of language. Sandlin incorporates sentence fragments, but those kinds of sentences were earned, because they made up for the flow of words that would paint such vivid imagery. The sentence fragments also helped in expressing a character’s thought, and creating atmosphere. These myriad settings are especially relevant to Delpha’s situation, because much of the story offers much detail on what Delpha is thinking and feeling. Even when her backstory is revealed, the writing is successful.
The dialogue carried the same flow as the story itself; and it was realistic throughout the novel. In its poetic prose and realism, the dialogue was casual and seemed appropriate to the character(s) speaking. Even though some of the dialogue may prolong a scene, there was no harm done in extending a conversation to develop plot points and characterization.
As for the narrative itself, it took a while for the story to get to its main focus. This seems relevant, because the first impression of the novel was on the leaf of the book where the synopsis is. The synopsis suggests a rape, a murder, and a character running into one of her rapists. However, the novel itself doesn’t make those distinctions right away. The novel tries its best not to have fillers in the narrative, but it may have gotten away with one or two scenes of what seemed to be filler. Other than that, the narrative experienced no other problems of getting to the point faster.
Finally, by means to not expose the conclusion, the novel does, in fact, achieve a moral. The moral affects the female lead, because the audience can see the precautions that this woman would take, as well as how she handles herself. This is relevant for a story, because most of the time, a protagonist has to go through a struggle in order to realize the moral.
So, how to describe “The Do-Right?” The novel was successful in combining two character scenarios into a stand-alone story. Such clever writing allows vivid imagery and realistic dialogue to be showcased in an intriguing book that portrays a woman’s mission to stay out of prison and to handle her demons.
Full Disclosure: San Antonio Book Festival Executive Director Katy Flato sits on the Rivard Report board of directors. Learn more here.
*Top Image: “The Do-Right” was written by Lisa Sandlin.