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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heart of the Country, Part Deux

What happened next in this novel of misfits and outcasts in the prairies? Well, Joe Cobden, ugly hunchback half-breed, is still taking care of the idiot's son and living in the same house. He realizes that their money will soon run out, so he goes into business selling firewood. The other lumber dealer who has been making all the money from firewood is against it and the town council passes a law that he has to take his business out of the city limits. Joe sets up shop just outside the town limits and business is good with his loyal customers, so Joe continues cutting down trees on the ridge around the house while the idiot, Calvin, digs holes all over the property looking for gold or who knows what. The son, Noah, is growing up and lends a hand with the wood business by helping Joe chop down the trees, after Joe tells him he has to do something to earn his keep. Joe is put out of business later on by this unscrupulous lumber dealer, and Joe turns to carving tobacco store Indians.

The town's undertaker catches pneumonia and dies and into town moves a new undertaker, a gentleman by the name of Pike, and with him comes his wife, mother, and daughter. Of course, the family turns out to be misfits, except for the daughter, who has a fair brain. Pike's elderly mother can't stand to walk up and down the stairs where the bedrooms are, so she falls down the stairs and after that lives in her upstairs bed, even though she is perfectly healthy. She bangs on the floor with her can when she needs something. The last third to half of the book is taken up mostly with this family and the Reverend Wilkes' family. Mr. Pike had flunked out of medical school and takes up embalming although he never finishes the course due to some frailty on his part. Phoebe, the daughter, sneaks down to the basement to take a look at a recent female corpse and sees her father indulge in an immoral act, but doesn't tell anyone. Phoebe eventually escapes to Chicago and further east after her mother is committed.

The Wilkes family is just as screwed up as the other characters, at least the Reverend is. He makes whoopee with his daughter, who turns up pregnant, and is aborted in Joe's living room and the baby's remains buried near a tree on the ridge. Sadie, the daughter, never speaks to anyone anymore and comes to a tragic end.

Noah, the idiot's son, is a smart and wise kid who turns into his teen years and gets to hate his situation, so he takes off to see the world, and is the unwitting instrument of Sadie Wilkes' death, but never learns how or why.

All in all, the story was interesting to the end that takes the main characters to their final days on earth. I had almost reached the end when I realized that I had read the book before. It was just a sentence or two that allowed my brain to channel this fact and I won't disclose it, since it may (or may not) reveal too much of it to a future reader. Like I've said too many times, I used to read for entertainment only and have read several books two or three times without realizing it until near the end.

(I hope everyone had a safe, relaxing, and fun Fourth of July. We went to the step-daughter's house and had a grill-out. The great grandsons wanted to set off a smoke bomb and kept bugging their father long enough that he said okay. Out to the back yard they went and BLAM! Smoke everywhere in a large cloud, pretty smoke, blue, green, turquoise smoke. I smelled nitrate, sulfate, iodate, and potentate, it was so powerful. Reminded me of the times when they shot off the 5 inchers on the ship. A good time was had by all!)

8 comments:

  1. Sounds like a Thomas McGuane novel.

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    1. I'll have to take a look at Mr. McGuane.

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  2. Hate it when I read half way or more in a book before I remember that I have read it before, but if it is good I read on.

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    1. If it's good, you don't mind it so much.

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  3. Yes, you will like McGuane's work.

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  4. Just looked him up. Wikipedia has a long article on him and his writing. I'll order "Ninety-two in the Shade" as a starter.

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