NaÃ¯ve, sex-starved son of a hellfire Baptist preacher sets out across Depression-era America to find his father’s hidden fortune and save his family.
Tobias Henry, a self-proclaimed â€œbad Baptist,” narrates his own coming-of-age story with an eye for the absurd and a pseudo-Twain-like twang. When his father is blinded in an accident (a bird craps in his eye), Tobias is dispatched to Texas with only $37, a little biblical knowledge and a map that will lead him to buried treasure on the old family farm. Hapless and preoccupied by opposing feelings of piety and lust, Tobias loses the treasure map, and a prostitute takes all his money, leaving him a virgin. An old, Longfellow-quoting, oddly philo-Semitic black hobo named Craw then adopts him. Together, they ride the rails, take refuge in hobo jungles and witness the despair Hoover’s Depression has wrought. Craw is bawdy, mischievous, yet Wise, with a capital â€œW.” He imparts home cures and truths about snakebites, Jesus, sex, love and life to his clueless pupil. Once in Texas, and welcomed into the bosom of his eccentric family, Tobias falls in love with Sarah, a prickly but pretty farmhand. Before they can be together, though, he must dispel the old Indian curse that haunts Sarah and killed off her previous beau. At times sweet and funny, Conner’s novel is ultimately an attempt at Twainian allegory without key components: no moral center, weak symbolism, no raft and no river. The hobo’s long line of boxcars can’t replace the mighty Mississippi, and without that grand metaphor–and Twain’s mastery at spinning yarns–readers are left wading in shallow waters.
A good-humored but incurably cornball tale.