Pearson’s ninth outing (after Blue Ridge, 2000) is a gangly ramble: a simple tale about a Virginia ne’er-do-well whose sudden capacity to tell the future makes him helpful in the case of a missing girl.
On such a threadbare plot Pearson spins and twines a lavish embroidery, sparkling with characters, tinted by anecdotes, and darkened by an overall hue of the good-humored fatalism endemic to Pearson’s work. Things begin as Clayton, a harmless deadbeat common to the author's small-town Virginia, suddenly abandons his days of watching the pornographic Satin Channel via a pilfered cable dish; instead, he sets about producing enigmatic charcoal drawings on the walls of his house and prophetic, albeit indistinct, mutterings no one can make much sense of. Enter Police Deputy Ray and his sassy-mouthed, part-time sidekick and former girlfriend Kit. The two begin paying attention to Clayton’s phrases and drawings. At the same time, a local woman’s daughter is abducted, and the amusingly absurd account of what she does with her life in the aftermath is one of the brightest story-notes in an otherwise routine set of events. (She becomes a TV anchorwoman and drinks amply from the well of counterfeit media celebrity—a subject the author takes more than one shot at.) As it turns out, Clayton is somehow “channeling” for a member of the British Polar Expedition of 1911. Among his utterances are the names of apples, and when Ray and Kit go to an orchard, they find the girl safe and healthy. Clayton himself simply disappears at the close, perhaps fittingly in a novel more notable for its fine style and language than for the architecture of its plot.
A diverting frolic through Pearson’s particular narrative homeland, filled with eccentrics and elaborate anecdotes that will entertain while the tale is, well, gotten on with.