Modern Ranch Living

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"Almost too hot. It had cracked 100 the day before, and the old weatherman on channel four, the guy who Joyce had said was the most accurate but heard was a pervert, had said today would be hotter by a few degrees."

The summer heat in Tucson makes some people dry up and some people boil over. In the dusty, gated desert community of Rancho Sin Vacas (Ranch Without Cattle), a handful of residents are finding that neighborhood life is becoming increasingly bizarre among the crumbling swimming pools, overwatered ...

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SIGNED in person, glue spots on top panel, tiny dj creasing, otherwise a fine new book and dustjacket. Set in the dusty, gated desert community of Rancho Sin Vacas (Ranch Without ... Cattle), where a small group of residents are discovering that life there is becoming less than desired with oversprinkled lawns, problem children, and disintegrating swimming pools. Many of the residents have minor to major problems, and find themselves linked together in an unlikely alliance when a strung-out, magic marker-sniffing teen goes missing from the neighborhood and people talk of murder. This occurance changes the course of the long, hot summer and maybe the course of their lives. A thoughtful, funny, sensitive book. Read more Show Less

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Overview

"Almost too hot. It had cracked 100 the day before, and the old weatherman on channel four, the guy who Joyce had said was the most accurate but heard was a pervert, had said today would be hotter by a few degrees."

The summer heat in Tucson makes some people dry up and some people boil over. In the dusty, gated desert community of Rancho Sin Vacas (Ranch Without Cattle), a handful of residents are finding that neighborhood life is becoming increasingly bizarre among the crumbling swimming pools, overwatered lawns, and disaffected children.

Sixteen-year-old Kendra obsessively hones her body into a perfectly muscled machine, even as she struggles to master a mounting violent streak. Thomas, her increasingly misanthropic brother, rarely leaves the house, all the while cultivating a disturbing little obsession of his own under the front porch. Down the street, Merv is stuck in a rut, thirty years old and still living at home. Lonely and looking for a way out, he's reaching his breaking point over his insomniac mother, whose oddly compulsive behavior with household appliances threatens to wreak havoc on his life.

When a strung-out, magic marker sniffing teenager disappears from the neighborhood and rumors of murder surface, these malcontents find themselves in an unlikely alliance that will alter the course of one long, sun-baked summerand perhaps their lives.

Funny and disturbing, Modern Ranch Living probes the emptiness of modern American culture, the strange things people do to satisfy their twin hungers for pleasure and oblivion, and the unexpected small acts of kindness they can sometimes perform to ease one another's pain. This delicately deadpan comedy makes brilliantly clear why Mark Jude Poirier was named "the young American writer to watch" by the Times Literary Supplement.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Short story writer and novelist Poirier (Naked Pueblo; Goats; etc.) is making a name for himself as a chronicler of the surreal everyday life of the suburban Southwest. In his panoramic, essentially plotless second novel, he captures the aimless, air-conditioner-blasted, pop-culture-saturated nature of existence in Tucson, Ariz. During the summer of 2001, Kendra Lumm and Merv Hunter have nothing in common except proximity. She's a teenaged fitness fanatic, he's the 30-year-old manager of a Splash World, and they both live with their parents in Rancho Sin Vacas, a sprawling gated community in the desert outside Tucson, where growth occurs "at the rate of an acre an hour." Kendra is seeing an anger management therapist, and Merv is trying, halfheartedly, to determine whether he'll always be a loser who lives with his sleepwalking insomniac mother. When a Magic Marker-sniffing juvenile neighbor suddenly disappears, filling everyone with concern and foreboding, the protagonists begin to address their own problems. Kendra and Merv cross paths only occasionally, but their parallel pursuits of happiness are similarly baffled and good-natured. Kendra's strange Valley Girl-like speech patterns ("plussing as which") add a baroque touch to this deadpan expedition into a weird corner of the American psyche. Agent, Jin Auh at the Wylie Agency. 8-city author tour. (Sept.) Forecast: Fans of George Saunders and Douglas Coupland will appreciate Poirier's similarly offbeat take on suburbia. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Trying times in Tucson for a teenager and her neighbor. Set in the same Arizona city as his story collection, Naked Pueblo (1999), Poirier's second novel tracks the lives of 16-year-old Kendra Lumm and 30-year-old Merv Hunter. Kendra has been lifting weights since she was ten and now has a magnificently muscular body, but she's not a happy camper; she pushed older brother Thomas so hard she broke both his arms. Now she's seeing a counselor, though the reason for her anger is not hard to find. She's not nearly as smart as skinny Thomas, and her mangled speech is as embarrassing as acne. Might she be a retard, she wonders dismally? Neighbor Merv is not much better off. True, he likes his job as manager of a waterslide park, but he doesn't have a girlfriend and still lives with his mother, who may be going crazy-Kendra saw her in the desert clutching some electrical appliances, and escorted her home. Neither of these unhappy people is sympathetic. Kendra's hair-trigger temper is a turnoff, and Merv is a sad-sack. Instead of a plot, we have a question: What's behind the disappearance of Kendra's former boyfriend Petey Vaccarino, and is it linked to a bunch of sinister meth-heads? But Petey is a fringe character, and the meth-heads are here for atmospherics, a backdrop for characters always on the boil. Kendra and homeboy Miguel want to have sex, but they end up screaming obscenities; Merv does have sex with Melissa, a knockout, but that ends in recriminations, too. Even a poetry class at the community college dissolves into name-calling. Somehow it's no surprise at the end when Merv, who should be on top of the world after a terrific job upgrade, looks at his mother, by now a recoveringlunatic with a sharp tongue, and decides he wants to break her jaw. Bad vibes and sadistic fantasies are all that keep this limp story afloat. Author tour. Agent: Sarah Chalfant/Wylie Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401300425
  • Publisher: Miramax Books
  • Publication date: 9/8/2004
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 0.81 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Jude Poirier grew up in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of two short story collections, Naked Pueblo and Unsung Heroes of American Industry, and the novel Goats. He lives in New York City.
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