Publishers WeeklyReading Toby-Potter's dark, inventive first novel is akin to staring at a pointillist painting, nose against the canvas, and slowly stepping back until the seemingly random points converge to reveal a complete picture. That picture is a landscape of smalltown Loomis, upstate New York's answer to Southern Gothic. Loomis's oldest and most cursed family, the backwoods Mayborns, have been dogged by rumors of unspeakable horrors for more than 100 years; their sins seem to be physically represented in the "black and grotesquely shriveled" fingernails of the Mayborn women. June, 14, carries the telltale trait and is told that, because of it, "the world will always shun" her, as it has her ancestors. About to cross the Mayborns' path are two former cult members, manipulative head-turner Iris ("how reckless it was to have such beauty bestowed on a person like Iris") and her fastidious teenage daughter Lee, who also has shriveled, black fingernails. Mother and daughter dutifully return to Loomis for a cult reunion until Iris finds trouble and deserts Lee. The longer Lee lives in Loomis and investigates the Mayborns, the more she learns about herself and questions a possible "kink in her moral codes." Toby-Potter introduces one uniquely creepy character and one strangely plausible plot point after another, without losing her focus or confusing the reader. As the revelations build, the novel approaches its vibrant, jaw-dropping conclusion. Deliciously strange, this is a notable debut. Agent, Alice Tasman. (May 14) Forecast: Few writers successfully follow in the footsteps of Joyce Carol Oates, but Toby-Potter is one of them. Strong reviews should help launch this promising first novel. N.B.: Philomel Books will publish Toby-Potter's children's book, Olivia Kidney, in June 2003. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsThe lives of several generations of an outcast family in a small town in upstate New York. All across the country you'll find places like Loomis, where the favored pastimes seem to be family feuds, mean-spirited gossip, adultery, and incest. Like most of rural New York, Loomis is dirt-poor, but land is still everything here and success and failure are measured by the farms that the competing families buy or sell. A hundred years ago the Libargers were the big people in Loomis, but a disastrous fire turned Jake's Jake [sic] Libarger into a crippled pauper who eventually had to sell his holdings to the hated Mayborn clan. The Mayborns still own most of the land to this day, for all the good it has done them: classic backwoods trash, the Mayborns are lazy, shiftless, dishonest, and broke. They are also famously promiscuous. Young June Mayborn manages to seduce local shopkeeper Ed Cipriano at the age of 14, but Ed breaks the affair off before long and tries to send June packing. June responds by burning down Ed's shop, accidentally killing Joseph (an elderly hippie guru who lived upstairs) in the process. While some of Joseph's cult still live in the area, most have long since moved on, but the word of his death gets out and many return for the funeral. Among these are Iris Utter and her daughter Lee. An oddly contradictory pair-Iris is flighty and irresponsible, Lee severe and strict-both mother and daughter are haunted by the disappearance of Iris's baby Noah, who vanished eight years ago while Lee was looking after him during one of her mother's extended absences. Now back in Loomis, they begin to piece together their own mystery and several others. There's no shortage of them in Loomis,after all. A fairly intricate tale that manages not to trip itself up, crisply narrated with a minimum of digression and a remarkable understatement that draws you into the action. Agent: Alice Tasman/Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency
- MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.44(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.02(d)
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Average Human based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Upstate NY with a Southern Gothic genius. USA TODAY picked this one. Which is where I found out about it. But don't listen to my barking, check out KIRKUS REVIEW and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Notably two of the best in the industry. If you are even a little interested in both amazingly developed and honestly different stories & characters, READ THIS BOOK. I don't want to give any of it away. I was totally entertained...Your abilities would definitely have to be well below those of your 'AVERAGE HUMAN KIRKUS REVIEWER' to even feebly disagree.
What a wonderful book. What an unexpected pleasure. I had the most delightful weekend absorbed in this strange, somewhat bizarre tale. Reading the prologue - with its masterful use of the English language and its introduction to an unusual world - I was hooked. At its base is a family which imparts an implacable - even genetic - dysfunctional destiny on its members. The family's interrelationship with local towns-people and unlikely city-people makes for fascinating reading. It is a dark story, it has an underlying mystery and a host of unusual characters. I recommend it highly.
This book was a choice for our Book Club and was chosen due to all of the wonderful reviews it received. We have a diverse group and can safely say that we all agreed that this was one of the worst books we have ever had to suffer through. The characters were completely unlikable, which made it difficult to embrace this book. I found myself getting frustrated due to the lack of character development. I would read a passage and would be left with many questions regarding the characters' actions and emotions, which never got answered. The only reason I finished reading the book was so I could discuss the story at our meeting. I give it one star, since it did actually generate a lot of opinions. Unfortunately, none of them were positive. A good friend once said, 'Life is too short for bad books'... If you remotely agree with that, pick anything but The Average Human.
My bookclub read this based on reviews from some impressive authors - I am just wondering if they read the same book as we did! There were too many underdeveloped characters and at times the descriptions of the characters were contradictory. Way too many themes and plot lines left us wondering why? who? what?!?! The only half-way decent story line was of June; Ms. Potter should have just stuck with it and maybe the novel would have made some sense.