Unbelievable adventures and an unexpected reunion complicate a quest to locate a wicked, calculating woman in Saucier’s (In the Sanctum of Entropy, 2013, etc.) comic novel.
Dirtbag is, quite literally, a bag of dirt—cobbled together from debris, soil, and denim—with unkempt grass growing on his head and empty patches in place of his eyes. As this story begins, he’s hit rock bottom. A brutal divorce from his wife, Katvanna, has left him despondent and missing his most precious possession: his heart. Now he spends his days in the town of Pickle Flats, propped against the wall of a building and drinking himself into oblivion. The unexpected reappearance of his friend Tuna Casserole, “T.C.” for short, a disgraced knight with long, flowing blond hair and a checkered romantic history that includes 10 divorces, shakes Dirtbag out of his dissolute existence. T.C. suggests that they track Katvanna down and take Dirtbag’s heart back. Can the duo survive bad coffee, a strange religious cult, and copious amounts of alcohol during their quest? Saucier’s densely plotted yarn takes many detours, but it never strays too far from the main characters’ central mission. The digressions, such as a stay with an eccentric blacksmith, are never predictable, and they provide depth to characters that could easily have become unlikable caricatures; Dirtbag’s friendship with T.C. and his reunion with his daughter, Rai, provide some of the novel’s most poignant moments. Saucier’s protagonist is an unlikely hero with a serious drinking problem and an occasionally gruff attitude toward life, but he’s remarkably self-aware of his limitations. Early in the novel, for example, a bartender asks him how he can see if he doesn’t have any eyes; he replies, “I’m a big bag of dirt! How do I do anything?”
A gleefully absurd romp that may appeal to readers whose interests are a bit off-kilter.