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An unpretentious, deceptively slight, and perfectly-toned comic novel about heartland folks that manages to grow rather than diminish in the reader's memory. By the author of Raney (1984). Mattie Rigsbee, at 78, thinks she may be ""slowing down,"" but nothing in the outcome of her story will corroborate that fear as she shows herself still to be at the moral center of life for those around her. When a stray dog shows up on her doorstep one day (widowed for five years, Mattie lives alone), she calls the dogcatcher, arguing that ""with everything else she had to do to keep up the house and yard,"" she had no business taking on a dog. But when the dogcatcher arrives to pick up the stray, events are set in motion that will result in Mattie taking on far more than just a stray dog. How so? Well, it turns out that the dogcatcher has a 16-year-old nephew named Wesley, who grew up as an orphan and is now being held in a rehabiliation center for stealing a car. And it turns out, too, that Mattie takes some of her homemade food to the boy, impelled not only by her own sense of goodness bat by a passage in the Gospel of Matthew about doing good unto ""the least of these my brethren."" Result? When Wesley escapes from the center, he heads for Mattie's, intending to steal some more of that good food. A comedy of errors ensues--there are alarmed neighbors, another stolen car, a farcical mix-up in the choir loft in church--with Mattie at end choosing to create a new life and home for the prodigal Wesley, confirming the view of her own children (aged 38 and 43, both as yet unmarried) that their mother has quite lost her marbles. With a touch here of Samuel Clemens, there of Lucky Jim, yet again of Peter De Vries, Edgerton takes on the pieties of church, family, and goodness, and, without the least hint of mawkishness or falsehood, inspires them with a laughable comedy that hits the mark and lingers. Homespun verities with an unjaundiced eye and master's hand.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1987
ISBN: 0345419073
Publisher: Algonquin