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3-minute book review: 'Kumquat' is ripe with heart and humor

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'Kumquat' by Jeff Strand

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The book: ‘Kumquat’ by Jeff Strand was released July 1 as an e-book and is available on Amazon Kindle. Click here to purchase.

The story: Todd and Amy meet at a Tampa Bay film festival, and by the end of their first lunch together, they decide to embark on a 22-hour road trip to Rhode Island to get a hot dog. They encounter obstacles along the way, but they face each one with a sense of humor and a fierce determination, all the more inspiring because Amy could die at any time.

Opening line: ‘I think I’m having a stroke.’

The review: ‘Kumquat’ is a romantic comedy about two affable strangers who find themselves on a zany road trip from Florida to Rhode Island to get a hot dog.

The narrator of ‘Kumquat’ is thirty-five-year-old introvert Todd Bryan, who knows his life is stuck in a rut but lacks the motivation to change course.

When Todd meets Amy Husk at a sparsely attended film festival, he's instantly attracted to her. Besides sharing an affinity for a popular TV show, the two quirky adults share lunch where Amy tells Todd she’s dying.

Her attitude about impending death is refreshingly real.

‘I’ve come to terms with it,’ Amy tells Todd. ‘God is well aware of my opinion on the matter.’

When Todd says he always wanted to visit a famous hot dog shack in Rhode Island after seeing it featured on TV, Amy convinces him to do it and even agrees to join him.

Suddenly, Todd’s routine is turned upside down by a spontaneous road trip with a woman he just met.

Along the way, Todd and Amy encounter epic car problems, assault and battery, a gummi bear tractor, a scar-faced hitchhiker with a hook hand, a peanut butter and jelly hot dog, and major medical emergencies.

They also discover the thrill of taking chances in life and the joy of making the most of the time you have left on this Earth.

Early in ‘Kumquat,’ Todd realizes ‘it is better to regret the things you’ve done than the things you haven’t done.’ It’s a particularly sweet moment because Amy unknowingly provides the spark for Todd’s new outlook on life by simply being herself.

Amid all the zaniness, ‘Kumquat’ is surprisingly poignant and a leading contender for feel-good novel of the year.

The author Jeff Strand creates two endearing characters and infuses their relationship with an unexpected depth, humanity and tenderness, while managing to keep it grounded in reality with wicked humor.

A highly regarded horror writer with four Bram Stoker Award nominations, including two for Best Novel, Strand fuels his foray into romantic comedy with his trademark wit and whirlwind banter.

However, ‘Kumquat’ tugs hard on the heartstrings as Todd and Amy’s trip transforms into a beautiful metaphor for the disappointments and joys experienced along the road of life.

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