A boisterous novel about a rough man in search of the meaning of life.
The subtitle of Morgan’s debut calls it “an epistolary novel,” despite the fact that it contains no letters; instead, it tells a fictional tale “inspired in part by true incidents.” But Morgan’s dramatic instincts and sheer narrative gusto quickly sweep aside such category concerns, starting right from the beginning, which finds the main character, Tom Morgan, driving down a road in Indiana with his wife and two children. An accident sends them flying through the front windshield. They all survive with varying amounts of physical injury (as he memorably puts it, “my little girl fractured her arm and shoulder and at thirty is still retrieving shattered glass from her forehead”), but the incident prompts his estranged wife to divorce him and sue for custody of their children. Morgan, a plainspoken old “leftie” who describes himself as “a reclusive revolutionary marxist without a party, a rancher without his ranch, a horseman without his horses,” eventually contacts a lawyer named Jack McMurtry (“he’d spent a lifetime collecting quirky opinions”) in his quest to regain custody of his kids. But this family drama is just one strand in a sprawling narrative that overflows with beautifully drawn characters and scenes in the life of a dreamer and iconoclast. Along the way, the author vividly describes a series of colorful outcasts and offers his own countercultural digressions: “Free enterprising cultural decay is required for corporate profit,” he writes, for instance, and “The mental health industry deliberately dodges responsible analysis.” He also occasionally fulminates against “liberal pap at the pulpit.” But both religious and nonreligious readers will find an abundance of involving anecdotes in this rambling, highly detailed, and fictionally charged life story.
A first-rate raconteur tells engaging tales of family and faith.