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Posted June 18, 2002
A masterpiece from a shamefully neglected master
Although it does not seem to have been either a commercial or a critical success (and is out-of-print, though widely available), I think that his 1986 novel <i>In the Hollow of His Hand</i> is superb: a hilarious but oddly touching book. For the first hundred-plus pages it provides an account of a not-very-bright, twelve-year-old Chad Coultas, growing up in a small Midwestern town at an unspecified date between the end of World War I and the start of the Great Depression. Then it literally takes off and turns into a picaresque road novel, as Chad is kidnapped by a succession of men, chased by his father and an ancient private detective his father has hired, and helped by some women. This novel is not depressing, as some of Purdy's other fiction definitely is. Much of it is uproariously funny, though deadly serious issues of racism are central to the plot. Although the book veers away from lyrical realism into dreamily gothic surrealism half-way through, I found the second half very entertaining. It is a worthy successor of Purdy's early book about a boy lost among incomprehensible adults, <i>Malcolm.</i>Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.