Reminiscent of another debut Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest this powerful first novel by short story writer Udall (Letting Loose the Hounds) is constructed around grotesque set pieces; black humor drives the plot. Set in the late '60s, Udall's story begins when seven-year-old Edgar Mint, the half-Apache, half-white narrator, is run over by the mailman's car, his head crushed. Abandoned by his grandmother and alcoholic mother after his remarkable recovery, the boy begins an odyssey through various institutions and homes, starting with St. Divine's hospital in Globe, Ariz., where he recuperates, through Willie Sherman's, a horrific school for Indian children, ending up placed with a dysfunctional Mormon family in Richland, Utah. The novel's long middle section, describing Edgar's brutalization at the Indian school by the other kids, captures the effect of what seems like endless bullying on a child's consciousness. Against this hostility, Edgar concocts a homemade magic, which consists mainly of typing on a clunky Hermes typewriter given to him by a fellow St. Divine's patient, Art Crozier, a middle-aged man who has lost his family in a car wreck. One of Udall's best touches is to make the doctor who saved Edgar, Barry Pinkley, into a mysterious and menacing figure, perpetually lurking on the sidelines, rather like Clare Quilty in Lolita. While Pinkley strives maniacally to be Edgar's guardian angel, the boy views him with ambivalent loathing. When Pinkley, disguised as a Mormon missionary, seduces Lana Madsen, the wife in the Mormon family that takes Edgar in, he sets off the final catastrophe in the boy's life. Udall's style is reminiscent of the '60s black humorists, but he doesn't share their easy cruelty or inveterate superciliousness, making this not only an accomplished novel, but a wise one.
Warning: Most of the middle section, wherein Edgar is an inmate (no better word for it) at an Indian school, is downright painful to read. Despite that, this book was a delight. The character of Edgar was great -- definitely all the better for the retrospective p.o.v. -- with many hilarious moments. The plot was anything but predictable, peppered with Udall's many curve balls.
I picked this book up because I really enjoyed The Lonely Polygamist, and I wasn't disappointed.
I thouroughly enjoyed this somewhat strange book about this messed up little boy. Even though his life is full of torment, he never gives up. He keeps striving for something better. This is not one of those sad books that you feel guilty you read. It is really quite uplifting and heroic. This book is well written and easy to read, despite the crude material. I had never read anything by this author, but I think I will look around to see what else is out there. I highly recommend this book!
Although depressing in plot this is a story of rising above with forgiveness and positive thoughts. Edgar, I'd love to know him!! Being Native American, I especially was taken back to the challenges and difficulties present on indian reservations.....
This book was great and the first that I have read by this author - everyone else who loved this book and wrote a review was right - there are times when you laugh out loud and can totally identify with this character. At points the book switches between the first and third person, but not so much as to confuse the reader. Would certainly search out another title by this author.
Boy this was a great read! I very much enjoyed this novel. This isn't anything like any other that i have read. Very differnt. I hated to see it end. I fell in love with Edgar and some of his young and old friends. People are so cruel to children and those who may be differnet, this book really will make you cheer when Edgar learns how to stand up for himself, finds a family and feel carpet on his bare feet for the first time in his life. So many things that we all take for granted, Edgar had never experienced, or even knew existed. I was upset with his mother thru almost the whole book, but then started thinking--maybe she didn't know either. You won't waste your time with this one.
I wasn't a fan of this book it drug on far too long and I just kept hoping I'd get to the funny parts. I should have given up on it. I think I would have been less disapointed in it if the cover had not led me to believe the book was funny!
I could not stand this book. Probably because there was so much wrong with this boy. I don't know if it was ever an "Oprah Book Club" book, but it certainly could have been. Sad, depressed life of a native American Indian.
Yuck. I couldn't even make it halfway through this book. It is not inspiring in the least and not even that well written. I've seen it compared to John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. Maybe that's true because I hated that book too.
423 pages of pure entertainment. When I found this book for 50cents, I thought it was non fiction. It isn't but it sure reads like non fiction. One of the best books I have read. Really different & a can't put down book. Read it in two days. What a movie it would make!Charming, funny, sad, & original. Don't pass this one up. Now I will search for more books by Brady Udall.