MARVEL AND A WONDER by Joe Meno

MARVEL AND A WONDER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The mysterious gift of a snowy white quarter horse upends the rural existence of a family in Indiana.

Postmodernist Meno (Office Girl, 2012, etc.) changes things up dramatically with this ambitious attempt to reinvent the Faulkner-ian epic for the contemporary age. Where much of the author’s previous work has been based around twee tales of young adulthood and familial drama, here he draws on the grave themes and austere styles of writers like Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell to offer a mix of biblical allegories, tinder-dry prose, and noble characters trying to survive in a wretched world. The main character is Jim Falls, an aged Korean War vet who lives on a farm in southern Indiana. His daughter, Deirdre, is a drug-addicted mess who splits on her son, 16-year-old Quentin, whose care falls to Jim by default. One summer day a surprise delivery arrives in the form of a stunning quarter horse as the result of a legal error. Just as grandfather and grandson are gaining hope they might get to keep the magnificent animal, it's stolen by two meth-dealing brothers. The brothers intend to sell the horse in Kentucky, so Jim and his grandson chase them across the great American landscape of dive bars, truck stops, strip clubs, and Winn-Dixie shops, all presented in panoramic vistas. Eventually, Meno introduces a proper villain in Rick West, a sexually abusive grifter who eyes the horse as his prize. The novel’s prose is marvelous in its spare, convincing grit while the story’s themes of family, redemption, sacrifice, and faith echo the plays of Sam Shepard at times. The novel is occasionally trying too hard, particularly in its portrayals of racial issues in America (the novel is set in 1995 during the O.J. Simpson trial), but these small oversteps don’t distract from the novel’s elaborate emotional arc.

A grandiose, atmospheric portrait of Middle America in all its damaged glory.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61775-393-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Akashic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2015




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