Into the Desperate Country: A Novel by Jeff Vande Zande

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More About This Book

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596610422
  • Publisher: March Street Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2007

    Capturing the Essence of Contemporary Nihilism

    Jeff Vande Zande writes beautifully. His style is one of concentrated poetic prose that seizes on fragmentary moments of observed nature in the wild and nature in the very rough state of human vulnerability and confusion and disrepair, forming from these puzzle pieces a tale that is at once solid in structure and challenging in content. Two days in the life of an antihero occupy the pages of INTO THE DESPERATE COUNTRY, and while the pace of the book in unrelentingly brisk, the author finds time to raise questions concerning goals and lack of same, approach/avoidance conflicts of relationships, the isolation of contemporary man longing for life to make sense, the panic of coping with society's expectations instead of following personal dreams, death, and many other breathless issues. It is a book that entertains as fast as a flash on the river of life and yet pushes the envelope of reader participation just when it seems that 'thinking' is least needed. Stan is a scruffy lonely man whose life seems to be careening out of order: for the three years since the odd automobile accident that killed his wife and young daughter he has left the automotive line work in Detroit and has been living in a cabin in Northern Michigan without amenities, with only the ghosts of the past accompanying him on his search for a rational explanation for living. Into this wild comes Jane, a finance banker who has come to deliver news that Stan must make some decisions before he loses all his belongings. Attracted to the beautiful Jane, Stan shudders then jumps into the river flowing by his cabin, leaving the challenging Jane on the bank. Stan floats down the river only to face night and the natural elements, and in seeking shelter he encounters another cabin owned by a similarly disconsolate Dale who befriends him, clothes and feeds him, hears of Stan's attraction to the first female in three years, and encourages him to go for his chance to change his life by seeking out Jane. Stan's frantic, and in many ways humorous, search for Jane includes meeting other characters as out of focus as Stan until Stan finds Jane and a bizarre 'courtship dance' lasting two days has a tragic ending: everything Stan has been seeking to escape returns under another guise to confront his fear of the ordinary (job, wife, pay bills, boredom) when Jane's wealthy family attempts to suck him in. Stan again flees only to find the pieces of his recent life that made sense are now unavailable. The story is deceptively simple: the impact is very strong. This reader would have liked for the writing to continue as a longer novel, but then giving more information may have impaired the crisis and dénouement intended. Jeff Vande Zande is a creative writer of the first rank, an artist who is unafraid to infuse philosophy into his characters' lives in a way that allows the reader to both enjoy a good story while being challenged to address the contemporary individual's place in the universe. Grady Harp

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