THE AVERAGE HUMAN by Ellen Toby-Potter


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The lives of several generations of an outcast family in a small town in upstate New York.

All across the country you’ll find places like Loomis, where the favored pastimes seem to be family feuds, mean-spirited gossip, adultery, and incest. Like most of rural New York, Loomis is dirt-poor, but land is still everything here and success and failure are measured by the farms that the competing families buy or sell. A hundred years ago the Libargers were the big people in Loomis, but a disastrous fire turned Jake’s Jake [sic] Libarger into a crippled pauper who eventually had to sell his holdings to the hated Mayborn clan. The Mayborns still own most of the land to this day, for all the good it has done them: classic backwoods trash, the Mayborns are lazy, shiftless, dishonest, and broke. They are also famously promiscuous. Young June Mayborn manages to seduce local shopkeeper Ed Cipriano at the age of 14, but Ed breaks the affair off before long and tries to send June packing. June responds by burning down Ed’s shop, accidentally killing Joseph (an elderly hippie guru who lived upstairs) in the process. While some of Joseph’s cult still live in the area, most have long since moved on, but the word of his death gets out and many return for the funeral. Among these are Iris Utter and her daughter Lee. An oddly contradictory pair—Iris is flighty and irresponsible, Lee severe and strict—both mother and daughter are haunted by the disappearance of Iris’s baby Noah, who vanished eight years ago while Lee was looking after him during one of her mother’s extended absences. Now back in Loomis, they begin to piece together their own mystery and several others. There’s no shortage of them in Loomis, after all.

A fairly intricate tale that manages not to trip itself up, crisply narrated with a minimum of digression and a remarkable understatement that draws you into the action.

Pub Date: May 14th, 2003
ISBN: 1-931561-33-8
Page count: 274pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2003