Synopsis (From Amazon) :
During a snowstorm, three couples play a game of Texas Hold’em which leads to the institution of friendly, bi-weekly poker nights – until someone suggests that instead of playing for pocket change, the winner may choose another player with whom to spend the night. Friendships are strained and relationships crumble. Lies are told, truths are exposed, and feelings are hurt. In the end, can anyone bear the weight of this wanton self-indulgence? No one could possibly get hurt; after all, it’s only a game.
Review: Using a prologue can be an intriguing way of starting a book. It puts readers in an unknown and, at the same time, interesting area of the plot. And it can also be misleading.
We have three couples in this book, in three different decades of their lives. Steve and Katie are in their 40s, with teenaged daughters. Marty and Erin are in their 30s, with identical twin boys. Scarlett and C. Thomas are in their 20s and unmarried, without kids. The synopsis makes it clear that there are going to be some cross-connections among these folks, and that is what happens.
The good thing for me was the fact that the writers have evidently tried hard, quite hard in some cases, to make each character sound and feel different. No two men or women speak or think alike. Some of the verbal spats between them are brought out quite well, lending an organic feeling to the events. The sex scenes are also described well, with a healthy dosage of eroticism. And then there are the women. The first few chapters, they are rather passive, both as general characters and as partners in their relationships. After this unflattering start though, they pick up the slack. I don’t know who among the authors deserves more credit for their characterization but each of the women shine through in their respective passages in the later sections of the book, when they take agency in their own hands.
The bad? The men. I’d not disclose the names here but one of the men is a complete pig, another a complete hypocrite and the third a spoiled fetishistic baffoon. I struggled to relate to or understand any one of them. I mean, one does see the way they act, but the why of that is not quite clear, specially at the moment of transformation (more on that later).
The book is about how the same event can bring out different facets in different people, revealing their best or worst selves. Also, it shows how despite the façades that we keep, we rarely succeed in changing ourselves. In this regard, it is a decent psychological analysis of people’s behaviour. It is also a cautionary tale, as in how things can quickly go pear-shaped if we don’t know when to rein in our desires. Since the characters are all humans, and hence, inherently flawed, the authors (the Makers of these characters) award them the respective justice that they deserve.
The problematic thing about the turns the story takes is that more than a few times, the drivers turn to be lucky breaks, cropping up from nowhere. The most glaring of these is when two women are drinking in a pub and meet another (someone who doesn’t feature in the book before or after) who tells them something they’ve no idea about, and which leads to a pivotal plot point a few pages later. Besides, the basic plot, a married person’s fantasy of sorts, isn’t exactly original. Texas Hold ’em and Strip Poker as the plot device in this kind of fiction is a rather common occurrence.
Another issue with the book is the way the characters are described as behaving. I mentioned above that the authors try too hard at places. An example of that is the way pop culture references are littered throughout the book to explain a particular thing. Another is the endless use of adverbs and excessive exposition. Time and again, the “show, not tell” philosophy fails to register as we are told things, sometimes even those that have no bearing on the plot.
The tediousness of the opening and middle stages gives way to some interesting chapters later on as the action picks up and secrets come tumbling out of everyone’s closets.
The climax will not be to everyone’s liking but with the buildup it gets, it is as reasonable as any.
Verdict: Going All In is an interesting, if at times clichéd, take on the perils of desire and how we can never change our true selves.
Genre: Romance, Adult, Drama, Fiction.
What are your thoughts on this review? Have you read Going All In? What are your views of the book? Share in the comments section.
P. S.: I reviewed the authors’ last book, Deadraiser : Horror in Jordan’s Bank too. You can read it here.
Thanks for reading.