Book Review: Damaged Goods by Alexandra Allred

Just because this book opens with a disgruntled wife forcing a bloody tampon into the hand of her husband, does not necessarily mean it is a book just for women, although some might be put off by the opening. Damaged Goods follows the life of Joanna Lucas, a well-spoken divorcee who moves to Marcus, Texas to begin a life she can finally be proud of. Unfortunately for her, this town full of possibilities is actually home to the worst case of pollution in the US and a whole host of other issues that are set to make life hard for her, including rape, arson, and a beer-guzzling emu named Eduardo. Amongst this mess she finds herself adopted by a group of outspoken and eternally youthful women who bring out the true feistiness of her nature.
This is not a book to gloss over topical issues in favour of a happy ending, but neither is it didactic in tone. All too often if an author chooses to tackle complex issues you find yourself feeling sometimes enlightened, but rarely entertained and quite often bored. Allred combines her clever narrative techniques with continually evolving conflicts that keep the reader turning each page. Behind all the plot twists, one-legged Lion lovers and the beer-seeking emu there are some very real lessons. Allred makes you face up to the fact that if you want to see change then you have to do something about it. Sitting back and pretending nothing is happening makes you just as guilty as those causing the damage. She also shows the power of female friendship, without painting all male characters in a bad light, which is refreshing.
At times you are given a lot of information about new characters, and that can be a little hard to retain, but this is only at the start. Overall this is a complex story about friendship, politics and free-thinking that will keep you hanging on long after you’ve read the final page.