More Than Enough

More Than Enough

by John Fulton

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A powerful debut novel about a month in the life of one American family as they struggle to pull together and break apart in Salt Lake City, Utah

After a gang of neighborhood boys attack Steven and his sister Jenny and dislocate Steven's shoulder, the Parkers live well on the resulting settlement money. Their dream of success seem fulfilled. But their

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A powerful debut novel about a month in the life of one American family as they struggle to pull together and break apart in Salt Lake City, Utah

After a gang of neighborhood boys attack Steven and his sister Jenny and dislocate Steven's shoulder, the Parkers live well on the resulting settlement money. Their dream of success seem fulfilled. But their period of high living soon ends, and each family member grasps at what they want most. Jenny, the 14 year-old baby of the family,longs for normalcy, a state she tries to achieve in herMormon friends' religion and life. A stubborn optimist, Steven's father clings to his hopes of success even as his more practical wife tires of his dreams and longs forstability. For Steven, nothing is more important thankeeping his teetering family together.

Editorial Reviews

author of Equal Love Peter Ho Davies
John Fulton's collection Retribution was the best first book I read last year, and his follow-up is a strongcandidate for the best first novel of this year. A rigorous portrayal of the contemporary family, More Than Enough is riveting in its emotional acuity and unflinching honesty.
Publishers Weekly
Fulton bends the generic coming-of-age plot line to explore the effects of poverty and anger on a blue-collar Salt Lake City family in his first novel, which begins when 15-year-old Steven Parker and his sister, Jenny, are attacked by a Mormon gang. Steven's shoulder is dislocated in the scuffle, and a hospital visit puts a strain on the family's resources. Parker's family lives the high life for a brief period when the attacker's embarrassed father foots the bill for the boy's medical care, but once Parker's down-and-out, erratic father, Billy, goes through the money, the Parkers are once again forced to rely on Steven's mother, Mary, for support through her job as a nurse's aide in a rest home. But Mary has a twist of her own in mind when she tires of dealing with her husband's anger problems and takes up with a lawyer she meets during his visit to the rest home. Their impending union leads to an attempt to introduce Steven and Jenny to the lawyer's kids, but the effort to engineer an expanded family unit backfires when Steven's temper surfaces during his visit to the lawyer's house. Fulton's fast-moving prose and his knack for quirky scenes keeps the opening chapters interesting and unusual, and this might have been a compelling book had he increased the size of the attacker's award and stuck with the subplot of the Parkers living high on the hog. But the story line degenerates into genre clich once Fulton focuses on the family issues, dimming the efforts of a talented writer who duplicates much of the promise he showed in Retribution, his debut short story collection. Author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Perpetually short on money and led by a parent who's all dreamer, no doer, the Parker family gets a few months of middle-class living when the 15-year-old narrator is beaten up by a Mormon bully (the atheist Parkers have recently relocated to Salt Lake City) whose wealthy father settles out of court. A jobless spendthrift, Stephen's dad races through the cash. His sister drifts toward religion, if only because the popular, wealthy, happy-seeming kids are Mormon, and his mother takes a job she loathes at a nursing home to keep everyone fed. On the morning a patient dies in her arms, something snaps, setting off a chain of events that alters everything for the family in the space of one hellish day. Fulton writes searingly and realistically about divorce. Stephen watches as his father becomes a figure of pity, a groveling buffoon with a runny nose and an untied shoe wailing for love, and sees his mother become another man's sex object, preening like she never has in the teen's lifetime. The surreal moment when he realizes that his folks are not only parents but also people full of passion and pathos almost disgusts Stephen. Readers will appreciate that Fulton gets it, and also has the honesty not to wrap it all up neatly.-Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The unhappy domestic life of a Utah family: a first novel from storywriter Fulton (Retribution, 2001). Steven Parker is having a hard time of things, perhaps not so surprising for a teenaged boy living at home with his parents. He and sister Jenny are the only atheists in their Salt Lake City high school, which is somewhat like being the only Jew in Mecca. Classmates taunt them, and a gang of blond Mormon thugs led by the odious Danny Olsen beats up Steven. At the hospital, the siblings discover that their unemployed father has forgotten to make the insurance payments, and the family is saddled with a huge medical bill. Fortunately, Olsen's father is a God-fearing man who, when he learns of the attack, makes Danny apologize and gives the Parkers a check to cover all the hospital fees and then some. Chalk one up for the Mormons: Jenny is so impressed by this generosity (and the proselytizing of classmate Janet) that she decides to become a Latter-day Saint herself. Steven, however, remains a resolute unbeliever, and their feckless father takes the family on a spending spree that fritters away the cash in no time at all. To make ends meet and ensure they have medical coverage, Steven's mother takes a job as a nurse's aide, washing and dressing elderly patients all day long at Oak Groves Assisted Living while Steven's father talks vaguely of becoming a CPA . . . someday. Finally, the strain is too much, and she leaves her husband, taking Jenny and Steven with her. But her new husband Curtis, a Mormon, expects Steven to join the Latter-day Saints along with his mother and Jenny. Steven puts up with this for a while, but eventually goes back to Dad. Well written but dull and uneventful. Authortour

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Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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More Than Enough

By John Fulton


Copyright © 2002 John Fulton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-27675-1


A FEW HOURS BEFORE things took a turn for the worse, Jenny and I came home from school to find our father standing out on the gravel driveway, his shoulder-length hair thrown back in the wind and a pencil clenched in his teeth. He wore an old pair of blue jeans that had holes in the knees and a faded plaid pajama top. It was one of his study days, when he often stayed in his pajamas, and I was glad to see that, at the very least, he had his pencil out and seemed to have the tired eyes of someone who had been reading and working over math problems. He was looking at the sky and didn't stop looking at it when we walked up. "We're going to get a nice storm today," he said, taking the pencil out of his mouth and pointing it at the clouds caught in the mountains. "We need some new snow to clean things up." He kicked at the muddy slush beneath him.

"Aren't you cold in just that?" I asked, gesturing at his pajama top.

He was stretching and still looking at the sky. "It's fresh out here," he said, "not cold. It feels good." My father liked to feel good about almost everything, and he liked other people to feel good about things, too. People create life for themselves, and so they might as well create a good one. That was more or less the way he thought.

Inside, I was happy to see my father's papers scattered over the kitchen table—more proof of his studying—which would be important for my mother to see when she returned from ZCMI, where she sold cosmetics during the day. My father's latest ambition, and the reason we had moved from Boise to Salt Lake, was to become a certified public accountant after a two-year program at Salt Lake Community College. It was important that he do well because his courses were expensive and because the last year in Boise—where he'd been let go from National Harvester, and from Raider Truck Company before that—had been difficult for us. But he was not always, I knew even then, the most disciplined of students. Once I had looked at a sheet of his work left out on the counter and saw that, for the most part, his answers were wrong. I was a good student, especially at math, and was getting A's on my Algebra II tests in my first semester as a sophomore at Billmore High. I could see what he had done wrong, the mistakes he was making. But I didn't mention it to him, and I decided not to look at his work again. I was sure he'd improve, fall into the swing of being a student. Besides, he was doing his part, working twenty hours a week at a garage downtown, and was often tired and a little moody.

After studying for a while, Jenny and I went out to our ten-by-ten square of backyard and untangled Noir from his chain. He put on his usual show of unrestrained happiness— leaping, barking, pouncing at our legs—because he'd been freed from his cramped little space and knew he was going for a walk. It was great to see and tended to infect me with the same ridiculous excitement, even if I'd had a terrible day. Noir was a funny name for my dog because he was large and entirely white save for the smallest streak of black on one leg. He'd been named by a German hippie, who had lived two apartment doors down from us in Boise and had given him to me soon before we left for Salt Lake. I hadn't much liked the name at first, though later it seemed to work; it simply became him, whether he was white or not.

With Noir running in front of us, we headed up Ensign Down Boulevard, the main street that ran through the Downs. Like many neighborhoods in Salt Lake, the Downs was built over the foothills in a town where money and class were easy to see: those who had them lived up high against the mountains closer to their God, and those who didn't lived down low, farther away from someone else's God. The streets on the bottom half of the Downs were numbered. We lived in a duplex on Second Street, where most of the small two-room houses were rented by medical students, single mothers, and bachelors who lived with other bachelors. A mile or so up Ensign Down Boulevard, large new houses with balconies, sloping yards, and huge windows had been built into the hills on streets that had names like Joy Road, Paradise Drive, Marvel Circle. Above these neighborhoods, bulldozers carved the land into roads and partitioned it into lots, where dozens of new houses were just then being constructed. It was the early nineties, and there was a housing boom in Salt Lake and in the rest of the country, too. You read about it in the papers and heard about it on the news. People were making money, inflation was low and under control, and though I did not know exactly what that meant, I knew it was a good thing. I knew our family had reason to hope for the best.

Jenny and I were headed to the neighborhood of half-built houses and muddy streets and yards, where NO TRESPASSING signs warned walkers-by to stay out of the construction sites. Because most of those houses had no walls yet, you could walk through the frames and into the middle of the structure, look up at the sky, and imagine the height of the absent ceilings, the color of the carpet not yet laid, the number of rooms and windows, bathrooms, balconies, and porches. A few houses were closer to completion, and once Jenny and I had gotten into one of them. It was a three-story house off to the side of a road so freshly asphalted that you could still smell the tar in the air. Inside, large stacks of white tile lay covered in plastic. Written in pencil on the blank white walls were words like SINK, BATHTUB, KITCHEN COUNTER, WASHER AND DRYER, WOOD-BURNING STOVE. These objects lay heavily over the floor, wrapped in plastic and brown paper, waiting to be installed. They amazed Jenny and me, and we ripped a hole in the covering of the largest object and felt the cold enamel of a tub.

As sometimes happened on our walks, we were followed by a pack of neighborhood boys, some from my class at Billmore, and other, smaller boys who tagged along. They lived in the large, silent houses far above our duplex and knew that we were strangers who lived in every way below them. As we climbed higher into those wealthy neighborhoods, more and more of them came out of their houses and walked behind us. In the past, they hadn't done much to us. They'd called us names. They'd thrown a rock or two. But mostly they'd kept their distance and let us be.

That afternoon they stopped leaving us alone. It was a gray day in early January, and you could see the storm trapped up in the mountains and guess, as my father had, that it would soon be snowing down in the valley. A car or two drove up the hill, but it was around four o'clock, which meant the street was mostly deserted and we could easily walk up the middle of it and let Noir roam free, searching the wet yellow lawns for places to pee. At our backs lay the city—the State Capitol, the LDS Mormon Office Tower, Temple Square, Main and State Streets, the Avenues, and the Upper Benches running south along the Wasatch Front, where Big and Little Cotton Wood Canyons led up to the ski resorts. From the top of the Downs, you could easily see the endless grid of streets stretching west beneath a haze of pollution. When we neared the end of Ensign Down Boulevard, where the asphalt gave way to gravel, and then mud, and from where we could see the strange neighborhood of skeletal houses, Jenny looped her arm in mine. The boys had come within a few paces of us, so close that we could hear the crisp slap of the baseball that they threw back and forth across the street. "Should we run?" Jenny whispered.

"No," I said, angry that my sister failed to see that running was not an option for me. The baseball shot overhead and was caught by a kid who'd sprinted out in front of us. He threw it back just above our heads, so close that I flinched, and Jenny looked away and let out a shriek. "Shush," I said beneath my breath. I was embarrassed to be seen with my sister, who was fourteen, eighteen months younger than me. We'd both begun irritating each other during our first months in Salt Lake. But I had no friends yet, no one else to spend time with, and neither did she. Another kid ran out in front of us, where he caught the ball and hurled it—again just over our heads—to a boy who stood behind us. Jenny wanted to stop, but I pressed forward—boys on all sides of us now—until we were walking over the mud of an unnamed street on the sides of which construction vehicles—a small yellow bulldozer covered in dirty snow and two pickup trucks that said ZION CONTRACTORS on the sides of them—had been parked. Building materials—boards, bricks, coils of black hose, and lead pipe—lay stacked and partially covered beneath canvases held down by large rocks. Noir ran between the boys, wagging his tail and being too damn friendly. He leapt at them, his tongue dangling. When one of the smaller kids took a kick at him, he thought they were playing and began turning circles; then he lunged through the mud and into the middle of one of those large stick houses. The boys were dressed more or less alike in yellow and orange ski parkas from which dangled square paper passes from Alta or Snowbird or whatever expensive resort their families had last skied at. They wore bulky sports shoes of all colors—blue, black, red—with thick rubber heels that had little transparent plastic windows in them. Those were expensive shoes, I knew—eighty-dollar shoes. The kids were blond, their hair cut so short that it grazed their golden scalps. They looked less like a religion than like a race, a kind of people. That wasn't a nice thought, but it was how I felt about them then.

"Hey," one of them said, "your dog's pissing on that house."

Noir was in somebody's future living room or kitchen lifting his leg on a two-by-four. "Noir," I called out. He glanced at me quickly, put his leg down, and began sniffing the cement foundation for his next place to pee.

"What did you call him?" one of those kids asked.

Jenny and I stopped walking; I turned around and tried to address whoever had said that, but they were like the same kid in different sizes. "Noir," I said.

"Moir," the kid with the baseball in his hand said. He threw it, again over our heads.

"What's Moir?" My dog looked our way, confused by hearing his name tossed around like that. But he soon went back to his animal chores, sniffing and searching out that house for whatever he could find.

"Noir." I spelled it out. "N-o-i-r."

"That means 'black' in French," one of them said. "He's white. Why did you call him black when he's white?"

That question bothered me, since his name made no sense to me, either. "Maybe I wanted to call him what he's not," I said.

"He shouldn't be peeing on these houses," a kid said. He was one of the few kids who had something different about him. He wore glasses and had a chubby face. He bent down then, grabbed some dirty snow, and began to pack it. The two smaller kids on either side of him did the same, after which the kids on all sides of us started packing muddy snow into hard, brown balls. I felt Jenny moving in still closer and holding on tighter. She wanted to walk down the hill and in the direction of our house. But I didn't think we should look like we were retreating. So instead we followed Noir into the half-built house—a cement foundation and stick frame—where he'd been peeing. We walked over the driveway and through what must have been the garage and into the kitchen or the family room. Had Jenny and I been there alone, we might have surveyed the place and begun claiming rooms for ourselves, which we'd often done. "This is my room and this is my bathroom," we'd say, running from room to room until the whole house had been claimed and divided between us.

"Hey," a kid said from behind us, "it says no trespassing." I heard someone kick the sign that had been stuck out front in the mud. The pack of kids followed us into the house anyway. We could see them through the walls of two-by-fours in front of us and to the sides of us, dirty snowballs in their gloved hands. "Can't you read?" the same voice asked.

Someone threw a snowball that hit my sister in the back. "Ouch," she said. I could tell she wanted to run. But I squeezed her hand tightly to let her know that she couldn't show fear.

"Sure," I said then, turning around and facing the chubby kid with glasses. He was the one talking. "We can read." I looked around for Noir, who had disappeared. I wanted him close by. I thought he might seem threatening, though I knew he wouldn't hurt anyone.

"Then why are you trespassing?"

"You're trespassing, too," I said.

"That's not what I asked you." He threw the baseball again, this time so close to my head that I had to dodge it.

"Don't do that," I told him. Someone behind me threw a snowball that hit my side. I didn't budge despite the fact that it stung like hell.

"What're your names?" the kid with the glasses asked.

I told him.

"You don't go to the ward," he said.


"What ward do you go to?" some kid behind us asked. Jenny wanted to turn around, but I didn't let her.

"Tell them to stop throwing snowballs," she said to me. Another came flying at us then, though we dodged it. "Stop throwing snowballs!" she shouted at them.

"Shush," I said.

"What ward do you go to?" the kid with the glasses asked again.

"None," I said.

One of the smaller kids had picked up a board from the ground and was smacking it against something.

"What do you believe, then?" he asked.

"Nothing." I took my glasses off and zipped them into my coat. They were unattractive and had thick black frames. But I knew that we could not afford to replace them. Things went a little blurry, and I had to squint at the kid to keep his features in focus.

"How can you believe nothing?"

"We're Catholic," Jenny said.

"No we're not," I said, not sure why my sister would tell this lie.

"We go to the Catholic church," she said.

"We don't," I said. "We don't believe in God."

The kid with the fat face was tossing the baseball up and down in one hand. "You are," he said. "You're Catholic. You believe in the pope."

"No," I said. "We aren't. We don't." The fact that we believed in nothing, no God, no pope, nothing, had just become important to me. It was the only thing that I could own at that moment.

"You're lying," he said.

Two more snowballs hit me—one in the side and one in the back of the head. Jenny ducked down and held her hands out. I bent down and picked up a board. There were boards and discarded nails all over the cement floor. The kids around us also picked up boards, though not the one who was talking. He was still tossing the baseball up and down in his hand.

"Don't do that," Jenny said, looking at me and the other kids. She wanted us to put the boards down. I saw Noir sprinting toward us along the muddy road, happy in that stupid, excessive way of dogs.

"You're lying," the kid with the glasses said again. Then, without blinking, he hurled the ball into my gut. For an instant, bent over and wheezing, I went blind. The board dropped from my hand.

"Catholic shit," one kid said.

"Steven," my sister said, though I no longer knew where she was. I felt the ice-cold concrete beneath my hands and knew that I was on my knees. Noir yelped with pain and then began to bark. I opened my eyes, reached for the baseball, and hurled it at the fat-faced kid, missing him. Something hit me from behind and I went down, tasting blood, warm and sudden, on my lips. Two or three drops hit a patch of snow in front of me, and I heard Jenny scream. The fat kid was straddling me, his knees pressing into my back. He put his hand on the top of my head, took a fist of my hair, and pulled until I felt a clump come lose. I screamed and he pushed my cheek into the concrete until I was silent again. In front of me, I saw multiple pairs of new, expensive sports shoes walking over the ground. "Beg for mercy," the kid on top of me said. He turned my head and pushed my other cheek into the concrete.

"It's cold," I said.

"Mercy," he said. "Say it."

"Mercy," I said. But he didn't stop whatever terrible thing he was doing to me with his knee.

"Your sister ran home," some other kid said.

"Louder," the kid on top of me said. "Say, 'I beg for mercy.'"


Excerpted from More Than Enough by John Fulton. Copyright © 2002 John Fulton. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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