PRAYING TO A LAUGHING GOD by Kevin McColley

PRAYING TO A LAUGHING GOD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A YA author (Switch, 1997, etc.) crosses over into adult fiction with a richly told tale of a buried crime in tiny Credibull, Minnesota. The story opens on the bench of the feedstore with the amusing crosstalk of best friends Maynard Tewle, 78, and Clark Holstrom, 72, as they chew over a local burglar’s having stolen a VCR. Maynard complains that “People don’t give a damn about nothing no more.” Well, the townsfolk have clearly forgiven Maynard for apparently having murdered Albert Wilson with a hammer some 30 years ago. The old man still maintains his innocence—after all, though nobody was ever tried, everyone in town knows that a crazy, lusty Catholic priest, Father Kenneth Callahan, confessed to the killing on his deathbed. Now, however, a true-crime writer from Chicago, Ted Lewell, thinks he knows something about that long-ago case and turns up in Credibull to research a book about the true culprit. Meanwhile, Clark Holstrom’s wife Nora lies dying in a nursing home, having lost both legs to frostbite when she slipped in the middle of winter while taking out the garbage and was only found much later, unconscious. Comatose Nora hasn’t spoken for a year, although Clark detects a peculiar glint in her eye as it stares past him. Along with this, Clark, who spends much of his time caring for the historical society’s museum, has turned his hardware store over to his overweight, bald, bumbling son Walter, who tells his dad that business is hopping. Clark knows, though, that Walter is a poor businessman and suspects he may be sinking the store with inept management as he tries to fight the newly opened Wal-Mart by creating a computer section. Eventually, Lewell drives the already none-too-stable Maynard around the bend, convincing him that he’s in fact the guilty party, even though the wise reader suspects otherwise. As funny and sinister as the Coens’ take on Minnesota in Fargo. Well done, indeed.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83761-7
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998