(Reviewed by Judi Clark JAN 07, 2002)
"Everybody has two lives, whether they know it or not. The one you have and the one you might have. It's what you would be if you weren't who you are." - Cousin Wingfoot Baggett
Captain Saturday is the perfect novel to read for the start of a new year. The journey that Will Baggett takes to discover his other self is not only humorous, it is absolutely uplifting with a set of characters that won't soon be forgotten.
As the novel opens we meet Will Baggett on a routine day. He is Raleigh's #1 weatherman, a local celebrity, and he takes his responsibility to the community very seriously. He's been working for Old Man Simpson at the privately owned Channel 7 television station for the past twenty years. He's married to Clarice, his college sweetheart, whom he still finds attractive, and now with their son Palmer grown, is a successful Realtor. Palmer, a Duke graduate, is in his second year of Medical School at Chapel Hill. Will Baggett's home is in the old part of Raleigh with a perfect lawn, which he proudly maintains himself. There is no place that he'd rather live. In fact, in Will's opinion, his life is perfect, exactly the way he wants it. He would be content to continue in his job and his life as is, forever.
So he is not at all prepared for unemployment.
Especially since it happens so quickly and without a hint. Here he thinks he's going in for his annual contract renewal with Old Man Simpson. Instead he finds that Simpson has sold the station to a conglomerate and he's the first to go. Just as he's stunned into asking himself just who is Will Baggett if he isn't Raleigh's #1 weatherman, a sequence of events happen that are out of his control and his very public self that has been so carefully crafted is instantly replaced with an image of a madman. And it gets worse.
But was Will's life really what he believed it to have been? For us the reader, it's fairly clear that he's so self-absorbed in his weatherman role that he hasn't noticed that Clarice is increasingly unhappy with Will's approach to the job. And even he can't say he has much of a relationship with his son, except, maybe that his son hates him. In fact, he even surprises himself at how little he thinks about Palmer. When it gets right down to it, we can see that Will has spent so much time with his public life, he has totally neglected those that should matter the most to him. Then out of the blue, as he is so apt to do, his cousin Wingfoot Baggett shows up at his house to bring him back to the Baggett homestead. It seems that Wingfoot knows that the best way for Will to figure out who he is, is to go back to his family's home in the Cape Fear Valley and face his childhood -- and his cousin Min.
Captain Saturday is rich with exploring the subtle burdens and interpretations of family legacy yet we are kept entertained with some very robust, and often, eccentric characters. His cousin Min believes she is living the prescribed life of a true Baggett and even though the family home, which is really more of a museum, is fairly run down, "she's doing the best she can" to keep up the family heritage. Wingfoot on the other hand, mysteriously comes and goes with "his own agenda." Min doesn't ask where Wingfoot goes off to and Wingfoot doesn't volunteer. Yet, we can see he is not as free as he appears since his behavior is just a reaction to Min, to protect her he hides his own life. So here's Will back in the middle of this. But this time he's trying not to feel like he's on probation, like he did all the years growing up as the son of a father who was far worse than a family's black sheep. Thus, it starts to become obvious that perhaps he is the #1 weatherman because he so fiercely needs to disavow any family history and has found a way to live completely without it. But then again, look whose family he married into. Clarice's family is "old Greensboro" with lots of money. And no matter how much he denies it, it is clear that Will has an issue with them.
Another theme throughout this novel is transformation. Will's best friend and lawyer, Morris deLessepe, is a master at transforming his image and does so every few years often having to trade in a wife to complete the picture. Even Will Baggett the weatherman is a self-created image and not at all whom he started out to be. Before college he was Wilbur Baggett, the son of a golf hustler who often left Wilbur and his mother Rosanne to fend for themselves against the bill collectors. And as we find out more about Wingfoot, we see that he is full of surprises and a man who has had to learn the hard way about becoming who you are when who you thought you wanted to be is blocked. In fact everyone in this novel transforms his or her self at least once, except for maybe Min.
As I got to the end of "Book 1" of the novel, I couldn't figure out where Inman thought he was going to take the story. I was thinking, so a guy loses his job, so what? But, then "Book 2" plunges us quickly into Will Baggett's childhood. And that's when we begin to care about this guy. By "Book 3" I was enthralled with the cousins and other characters. Then "Book 4" answers the question just how Clarice came to marry him in the first place. And then in "Book 5" it all comes together. Will is no longer a public figure; he's an honorable man and a true father to his son.
Captain Saturday is a light, near comic read but one that makes you think about an awful lot of things and especially about the role of relationships. Whereas it is Wingfoot who initially rescues Will and gives him the advice that he can be anything. By the end, Will has grown to the point that he actually helps Wingfoot.
And that is what I like about this novel. In the beginning you just know that Will Baggett is about as shallow as they come. And by the end, Will has become someone real. He is no longer his job. Instead he is a father, a cousin, a son, a son-in-law and he is finally ready to be a husband. Will Baggett's final transformation makes him absolutely human.
- Amazon readers rating: from 12 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Home Fires Burning (1987)
- Old Dogs and Children (1991)
- Dairy Queen Days (1997)
- Captain Saturday (January 2001)
- The Christmas Bus (September 2006) (with Lyle Baskin)
- Coming Home: Life, Love and All Things Southern (October 2000)
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- Official Robert Inman Web site
- Reading Group guide to Old Dogs and Children
- Creative Loafing - Charlotte review of Dairy Queen Days
- The New York Times review of Dairy Queen Days
- twbookmarks author lounge: Robert Inman and Captain Saturday
- Southern Scribe interview with Robert Inman about Coming Home
- Salisbury Post on Robert Inman and Captain Saturday
- TheBookHaven.net review of Captain Saturday
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About the Author:
Robert Inman grew up in Elba, Alabama, where he began his writing career in junior high school with his hometown weekly newspaper. For twenty-five years, he was a TV anchorman on the number-one station in Charlotte.
His first two novels received the "Outstanding Fiction Award" from the Alabama Library Association. Home Fires Burning was named one of the best books of 1987 by the Philadelphia Enquirer. Inman has written screenplays for six motion pictures for television, two of which have been "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentations.
He left his career in 1996 to write full time. He has two adult daughters and lives in Charlotte and Boone, North Carolina with his wife, Paulette.