WYOMING by JP Gritton
Kirkus Star

WYOMING

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A series of shocking events, some instigated by the hapless protagonist, shakes up a Colorado family struggling to get by during the economic downturn of the late 1980s.

Things start going south for construction worker Shelley Cooper after a sudden mountain fire consumes the house on which he and his best friend, Mike, were toiling. When his boss rightly suspects he had something to do with an air processor that went missing after the blaze, Shelley loses his job. In desperate financial straits, he agrees to drive a shipment of marijuana to Houston for his brother, Clay, an ex-con who grows his own. "Don't think for a second I was dumb enough to figure it would turn out right," says Shelley, who has the $50,000 payday stolen by a young prostitute he let into his motel room. In fact, nothing ever goes right for him, including his impromptu marriage to his sister's friend Syrena. We are in an alternate Sam Shepard universe in which the battling brothers are too worn down by failure to fight. Moving back and forth in time with extreme subtlety, Gritton erects a penetrating family history of love, loss, loyalty, and betrayal. It takes a great writer to make a character as reprehensible as Shelley not only sympathetic, but almost likable. In fact, Shelley is not so dumb. He wryly reflects on billboards that read “HE IS RISEN” in the face of disaster and tells us how holding $50,000 in cash "feels like a blind rage, like a wolf howling at the moon." How did Shelley became the man he is? In this brilliant debut novel, there are many bread crumbs leading us back to possible answers.

An affecting, richly drawn, darkly humorous novel about grifting siblings, one worse than the other.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-947793-44-6
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Tin House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2019