From the Publisher
“A charming whopper of a tale.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune “Both comic and poignant.” —The New York Times“Refreshing, original . . . Wallace mixes the mundane and the mythical. His chapters have the transformative quality of fable and fairy tale.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A comic novel about death, about the mysteries of parents and the redemptive power of storytelling.” —USA Today
“An audacious, highly original debut novel . . . An imaginative, and moving, record of a son’s love for a charming, unknowable father.” —Kirkus Reviews
In this first novel, Daniel Wallace...adds legends and folk tales from the Southern backwoods, throws in a smattering of Greek myth and attaches a few of his own
inventions. Applying all of these...resulted in a story that is both comic
and poignant. -- New York Times Book Review
As long as sons have fathers, deciphering what’s not said between them will remain a boy’s most important rite of passage to adulthood. William, the gently cynical narrator of Wallace’s wonderful and elegant first novel, completes this rite by mythologizing his father, Edward Bloom, after his death.
Each chapter relates a self-contained story about Edward, fashioned from the jokes, tall tales and allegories William heard his father tell about himself over the years. Beginning with a miraculous birth in rural Alabama and proceeding through romantic encounters, tests of prowess, a few less-than-Herculean labors and, yes, a big fish story, we learn the general outlines of Edward’s life: He was a small-town boy who became an extremely successful business man and modestly successful family man.
As the novel progresses, so does William’s understanding of all the cock-and-bull stories. This change is the book’s most impressive feature. Rather than throwing the reader a sentimental epiphany, Wallace manipulates the narratorial voice with masterly finesse and sensitivity to render a motionless, quiet transformation in William. Wallace delivers handsomely with a wise story that is a delight to read.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
'People mess things up, forget and remember all the wrong things. What's left is fiction,' writes Wallace in his refreshing, original debut, which ignores the conventional retelling of the events and minutiae of a life and gets right to the poetry of a son's feelings for and memories of his father. William Bloom's father, Edward, is dying. He dies in fact in four different takes, all of which have William and his mother waiting outside a bedroom door as the family doctor tells them it's time to say their goodbyes. He intersperses the four takes with stories (all filtered through William's mind and voice) about the elusive Edward, who spent long periods of time on the road away from home and admitted once to his son that he had yearned to be a great man. The father and son deathbed conversations have son William playing earnest straight man, while his father is full of witticisms and jokes. In a plainspoken style dotted with transcendent passages, Wallace mixes the mundane and the mythical. His chapters have the transformative quality of fable and fairy tale, and the novel's roomy structure allows the mystery and lyricism of the story to coalesce.
An audacious, highly original debut novel, in which a son attempts to resolve the mysteries surrounding his father by re-creating the man's life as a series of exuberant tall tales. Edward Bloom has grown wealthy running his own import/export business. Restlessly wandering the world, he has returned home to see his wife and son only at rare, unpredictable intervals. Now, however, he's come home to die, and William is desperate to understand something of his father's life and character before he vanishes. But his father, an incorrigible jokester, deflects all of his son's queries with one-liners. A baffled William, waiting for the end, begins to create a series of tall tales in which his enigmatic parent is remade as a paradigmatic American folk hero. Growing up in Alabama as a 'strong quiet boy, with a mind of his own,' this mythic version of Edward has an affinity with wild animals and the uncanny. He reads every book in town, tames a lonely giant who has taken to eating the locals' crops and dogs, and hitches a ride on a giant catfish. As a young man he saves a child from an unearthly dog, rescues a lovely water spirit, and returns an enchanted eye to its rightful owner. As a wealthy older man he preserves a small southern town from the rancorous present by becoming its feudal lord. William narrates these stories in a language that nicely mixes the simplicity and tang of the folk tale with a droll, knowing sense of humor. All the episodes seem infused with a defiant, despairing love; in the end, the dying Edward outwits death by transforming himself into (literally) a 'big fish,' which his son returns to its ancestral waters. More a series of ingenious sketches than a cohesive novel,but, still, a vigorous updating of the purely American genre of the tall taleþas well as an imaginative, and moving, record of a son's love for a charming, unknowable father.