Two estranged brothers and an unexpected passenger embark on a road trip through Texas to recover stolen money in this strong debut.
Troy Falconer first appears in notes he's writing to explain how and why he frequents motels to steal cars, clothes, and another man’s identity. Two pages later an omniscient narrator describes Troy returning in November 1972 to his hometown in the Texas Panhandle for the first time in over six years. He and his brother, Harlan, have agreed to set aside grudges while trying to track down Harlan’s wife, who ran off with most of the money left him by the brothers’ father. Toggling between this narrative and the notes, Kennedy reveals one rootless man charting a larcenous course through America and one tied to a dot on the map: "I’ve spent my whole life here, Troy. Inside of a ten-mile radius," Harlan says. When Troy steals a car at a grocery store, the brothers are unaware that an 11-year-old named Martha is sleeping in the back seat. She adds a third narrative, of a father and daughter separated when he is jailed, wrongly, for kidnapping her, while she is placed with an aunt, whose Ford Country Squire station wagon catches Troy’s eye. The feisty girl wants the brothers to take her to El Paso and her father, but they have another target because Harlan says his wife “said something about Presidio once." Kennedy’s humor can be broad or sly. He reveals early on, for instance, the quest’s overarching absurdity when Troy says he connived with the woman who married Harlan to steal the inheritance. But she lit out on Troy as well.
Kennedy has a fertile imagination he lets drift into many beguiling detours, and the writing sparkles throughout.