Obsession, love and monsters combine to create a new set of family values in short story writer Shields’ (Favorite Monster, 2012) quirky first novel.
Born and raised on the borderline between two states, Idaho and Washington, Eli Roebuck spends the rest of his life, and maybe even beyond, straddling two worlds. Obsessed with tracking down the elusive, hairy hominid—endearingly referred to as Mr. Krantz—who may be the Sasquatch and who wooed his disaffected mother away from her home and son in favor of life in the deep woods, Eli’s search colors every relationship and area of his life. Shields’ phantasmagoric and episodic tale chronicles Eli’s and his family’s near encounters with Mr. Krantz and close encounters with less-benign creatures including lake monsters, half-human puppies and bird-women over the course of at least 60 years. The porous border between the worlds of the mundane and the monsters is not as straight as the border between Idaho and Washington, and at times, elements of one almost completely obscure the elements of the other, as when Eli’s painstakingly crafted “life-sized” model of Mr. Krantz wreaks havoc upon a small-town parade and terrifies rather than edifies. A sly humor permeates many of Shields’ characterizations, but the pathos of the Roebuck-ian search is never obscured by it. A monster who undergoes laser hair treatments in the pursuit of love? Unicorns who bleed silver blood? Ape mothers and tentacled grandmas who complain about work conditions in the afterlife? Shields manages to utilize this mysterious and creepy cast of characters in surprisingly affecting ways to aid Eli on his quest.
Imagine a mashup of Moby-Dick and Kakfa’s Metamorphosis (with a hearty dash of Twin Peaks thrown in), and you’ll begin to get an idea of what Shields' ambitious tale of disenchantment sets out to do.