Review of “Both Sides Now” by John Reinhard Dizon

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This unique story entirely sucked me in. It has so much substance I scarcely know where to begin. The characters are incredibly real, not only the protagonist, but the supporting ones as well. It feels like real life because there are so many others involved with their own agendas. In this sense, it reads more like a biography as opposed to a novel. The plot is likewise incredibly complex and convincing while it skillfully portrays a slice of history representative of the 60s era.

Lucien Triskellion obtains his PhD in Germany and accepts a teaching job at New York University teaching German. Lucien is a big guy who was a champion amateur wrestler during his college years. It doesn’t take long for someone to notice the fact he can press 500 pounds and lure him into the professional wrestling circuit. If you’re not a wrestling fan, don’t let this stop you from reading this book. I, personally, couldn’t care less about this pseudo-sport, yet I enjoyed this story tremendously because it went so far beyond that. Wrestling comprises numerous settings, but the story was so character-driven that it was comparable to meeting someone really interesting and listening to their life’s story. For example, the dichotomy of Lucien’s life as a university professor versus that of a pro-wrestler, in which he was cast as a bad guy, is gripping in and of itself. If you’re a wrestling fan, then you’ll undoubtedly love it even more as it brings the human element alive with the conflict behind the scenes.

Of course with a young, hot protagonist like Lucien, there’s going to be a romantic angle. This involves Anneliese Krieger, another German immigrant, who lives with her father. As if Lucien doesn’t already have enough going on in his life, Anneliese’s father is falsely accused of Nazi war crimes incident to WWII which results in a gripping trial which is loaded with additional suspense.

The details of all elements of this novel are so vivid and convincing it was easy to get lost in it and forget that it wasn’t real. The author has the masterful ability to include just the right amount of detail to build strong imagery, clear sense of place, as well as character appearance and development. Whether it’s an address in New York City, a famous restaurant, Madison Square Garden, or legal terminology or courtroom protocol, you feel as if you’re there. Needless to say, this book would make an incredible movie.

They say an author should write what he knows, and clearly Dizon knows wrestling, which shows in how he immerses the reader in this crazy world. He’s footnoted some of the unusual terminology and slang, which helps if you’re unfamiliar with it. The business and politics of this sport are explored and exposed as well as the various complications this adds to Lucien’s life and even reflect on the trial of Anneliese’s father. While some of the detail regarding the players in the wrestling business was somewhat overwhelming, possibly a bit overdone, it nonetheless added to the story’s amazing credibility.

I don’t often find myself in a position where I’ll actually miss the characters of a book, but I felt as if Lucien and Anneliese were personal friends by the time it ended. If you enjoy a meaty novel with a different setting, strong, well-developed characters, and a breathless ride through the 60s, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book. I absolutely give it 5-stars.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

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