Some novels leave nothing more than footprints in the sand to fade away or be filled in. Jordan (It's a Hard Cow, a short-story sheaf not reviewed here) has revised his debut novel, first published in Canada, for US publication, clearly hoping for a lasting footprint.
But this is less a novel than a wildly imaginative nonlinear mosaic marked by fearless originality of design and crests of silver and moonstruck language. One swims through its pages drowning in more and more pieces that don't fit together and perhaps never will. Certainly most readers will remain with questions even after the final chapter and its epilogue. It all begins with young Nathan Mann trying to trace his family tree by studying hints worked into some paintings left by his grandmother (whom some readers may well think is his mother). Nathan is the grandson of Eammon, a lyrical Irish thief, con artist, actor, fiddler, master of disguises, and bank swindler. Eammon's son Ryan, himself a master con artist, forever flees his father's grip, but Eammon has some unerring psychic eye that follows Ryan to whatever city he hides in. What's less clear is why Eammon sells both his children, a boy by his wife and a girl by his mistress, to other people. Ryan himself has been twice abandoned, first by his mother, that painter grandmother of Nathan's, then by Eammon—and so has Allison, Eammon's daughter by his married mistress. When Eammon tries to get Ryan to rope Allison into Eammon's swindling schemes, Ryan runs off with Allison and marries her, not knowing she's his . . . well, let's just say that Ryan and Allison become Nathan's parents, although Nathan may be the child of Ryan and. . . .
Tangled bloodlines among rootless Irish rogues on the prairie. A cult novel is born.