Pelletier’s long-awaited addition to the tragicomic annals of fictional Mattagash, Maine.
Mattagash is a town divided by a one-way bridge, a crossing that can only be made by one car at a time. The bridge will figure heavily in the at-times-farcical story, but in the meantime, Pelletier is bent on making us love the “cantankerous” men and the staunch yet wistful women who people this ultrarustic pocket of the Northeast. Many voices, most of whom share distant or close kinship, alternate points of view. Orville, 65, the town mailman, is staring down retirement as he delivers mail for the last time. He can’t ignore the insults that his archrival Harry has heaped on him, most recently a regulation-flouting, moose-shaped mailbox. Since the kids have left, Orville’s wife, Meg, is more absorbed by computer games involving penguins than her paunchy husband. Billy, a downstater, has decided peddling pot and pills is safer in Mattagash than in Portland, where he’s left a trail of drug debts and broken hearts. It’s been awhile since he’s gotten a shipment from his connections, cartel wannabes the Delgato cousins: Instead, their parcels contain fake fingers. Trying to rectify his poverty by doing odd jobs with his own fifth (or sixth?) cousin Buck, Billy is in increasing danger of freezing to death in an unheated camper and a classic Mustang convertible with the top permanently down as a Maine winter looms. Harry, recipient of a Purple Heart, is still tormented by flashbacks and dreams of combat in Vietnam and guilt over the deaths of his buddies and the carnage inflicted by both sides. Since his wife, Emily, died of cancer years before, Harry, though respected in town, has been something of a recluse. With so many characters, a coherent plot takes awhile to emerge, and when it does, it neatly melds the fallout from Billy’s traffic in bootleg Viagra with the more profound ramifications of wounds, both physical and psychic.
A welcome return for the author.