Summary and book reviews of The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh

The Big Door Prize

by M.O. Walsh

The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh X
The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh
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  • Published:
    Sep 2020, 384 pages

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Book Summary

The New York Times bestselling author of My Sunshine Away returns with another instant Southern classic: a gripping and heartfelt novel about a mysterious machine that upends a small Louisiana town, asking us all to wonder if who we truly are is who we truly could be.

What would you do if you knew your life's potential? That's the question facing the residents of Deerfield, Louisiana, when the DNAMIX machine appears in their local grocery store. It's nothing to look at, really--it resembles a plain photo booth. But its promise is amazing: With just a quick swab of your cheek and two dollars, the device claims to use the science of DNA to tell you your life's potential. With enough credibility to make the townspeople curious, soon the former teachers, nurses, and shopkeepers of Deerfield are abruptly changing course to pursue their destinies as magicians, cowboys, and athletes--including the novel's main characters, Douglas Hubbard and his wife, Cherilyn, who both believed they were perfectly happy until they realized they could dream for more...

Written with linguistic grace and a sense of wonder, The Big Door Prize sparkles with keen observations about what it might mean to stay true to oneself while honoring the bonds of marriage, friendship, and community, and how the glimmer of possibility can pull these bonds apart, bring them back together, and make second chances possible, even under the strangest of circumstances.

1
The Hubbards

After thirty-nine years and eleven-plus months, Douglas Hubbard had finally had enough of being Douglas Hubbard. So, for his fortieth birthday, just last Friday, he bought himself a trombone. It was a thing he'd long wanted and, now that it was purchased, Douglas felt this object made him an entirely new man. He was so excited, in fact, he spent his entire weekend polishing the instrument until it nearly glowed, standing in front of the full-length mirror in his and his wife's bedroom, spinning aloud out magical phrases like Dizzy Douglas, Herbie Hubbard, and Thelonious Doug. He dreamt up enough jazzy nicknames in the first few days alone to sustain several impressive careers and yet had not even put lip to mouthpiece. Why bother? When a person finds as much joy as Douglas did in simply imagining themselves to be someone else, the actual work required to change, along with so many other things they hold dear, can be forgotten.

But tonight, after clumsily blaring his way ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An eccentric, well-written small-town novel jam-packed with appealing characters and their dreams.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Walsh skirts the edge of fantasy in this playful and touching tale set in small-town Deerfield, La...The novel transcends its quirky premise, offering many insights on the mysteries of the human heart.

Booklist (starred review)
It's hard to believe that Walsh wrote this moving novel long before the COVID-19 pandemic, for there is eerie prescience in its soulful message that gratitude and grace are not to be taken for granted and that life can be upended in an instant.

Author Blurb Daniel Wallace, author of Extraordinary Adventures and Big Fish
Think of The Big Door Prize as a beautiful box full of all the things that compose our lives: love, fate, chance, jealousy, sadness, jokes, desire, and music. M.O. Walsh gives us all this and more, page after page, until we feel as if we know a little bit more about everything there is worth knowing. One of the most big-hearted books you'll ever read, about so much, but, in the end, really about the secret of life: the specifics of caring.

Author Blurb Joshilyn Jackson, author of Never Have I Ever
The lives of a couple facing their mid-life crisis and a young man coming of age intersect in this humorous and hopeful novel. M.O. Walsh has never been afraid to go down into the darkest places of the human heart, but his truthfulness is balanced by a beautiful optimism, just as his sharp humor is leavened by his genuine affection for the layered, vital characters he creates. A wise, wry, twisty, and entertaining tale. I loved it.

Author Blurb Mary Miller, author of Biloxi and Always Happy Hour
The characters in The Big Door Prize are familiar yet curious—so much like my own neighbors that I began to weave myself into the story, considering other lives I might live if I were braver, pluckier. Walsh's novel is the ideal summer read, an immersive escape as well as a brilliant examination of free will vs. determinism.

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