My Life and Adventures: A Novel

My Life and Adventures: A Novel

5.0 1
by Castle Freeman
     
 

Fleeing the wreckage of a murky diplomatic job in a Chaotic Latin country, Mark Noon finds himself down-and-out and holed up in a hotel in Mexico. As a last resort, he claims an odd bequest from a long-deceased family friend named Hugo Usher, and comes north to move into a dilapidated hill farmhouse in rural Vermont.

There, Noon begins to rebuild the house and

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Overview

Fleeing the wreckage of a murky diplomatic job in a Chaotic Latin country, Mark Noon finds himself down-and-out and holed up in a hotel in Mexico. As a last resort, he claims an odd bequest from a long-deceased family friend named Hugo Usher, and comes north to move into a dilapidated hill farmhouse in rural Vermont.

There, Noon begins to rebuild the house and the fragments of his life. He comes to know the complex histories of the memorable residents of Bible Hill, including Orlando Applegate, the lawyer and town father who becomes Mark's mentor in his new life — and Orlando's troubled daughter, Amanda, who captures his heart and begins to share her life with him.

Mark also discovers the journal of the farm's previous tenant, a bachelor named Claude Littlejohn whose cryptic diary of weather conditions he finds hidden in a trunk in the attic. As Mark pieces together the secret behind Littlejohn's lonely hardscrabble life, he embraces his new community, and learns to thrive there.

My Life and Adventures sets the haunted and transcendental New England of Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Emerson side-by-side with the dope and llama farmers, survivalists, and leaf-peepers of our day. The result is a delightful, unusual novel of one man's estrangement and return.

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Editorial Reviews

Ernest Hebert, author of The Old American, Live Free or Die, The Dogs of March, and The Ki
...makes you laugh, makes you cry, and...fills you with information about New England lore and land you didn't know.
Howard Frank Mosher
...wonderful story of a fascinating,off-the-beaten-path corner of New England. Told with great humor,originality,and skill...
Publishers Weekly
Freeman's quiet but affecting sophomore novel (after Judgment Hill) follows the hapless former professor Mark Noon, who arrives in the small Vermont village of Bible Hill in the late 1960s to fulfill the demands of his late mother's will. Noon inherits $100,000 and an old house, but the will stipulates that he must live on the land, no small challenge given the batty eccentrics who populate Bible Hill "in a concentration that today would give the town its own page in the DSM." Taking over the former residence of the deceased local hermit Claude Littlejohn, Noon finds a trunk containing the man's diaries and old photos going back to the early years of the century. Noon sees parallels between Littlejohn and himself in Littlejohn's struggles with isolation and personal demons. As Noon becomes more deeply involved in the community, he comes to savor the rhythm of town life, the harsh winters and even his screwball neighbors. The strength of Freeman's work is not just in his skillful depiction of Noon's personal evolution, but in his well-crafted sketches of the Bible Hill crowd, including the opinionated spinster school teacher ("She was pre-Freudian, Miss Drumheller. She believed in good and evil, mostly evil"), the wise-cracking and occasionally just plain wise Mr. Applegate and the rambunctious Amanda, who decides to share Noon's bed on her own terms (" `It's my luck, you know? A whole state full of cowboys, and I have to end up with some kind of Buddhist,' " she self-deprecates). Although the book's momentum is sometimes hampered by flaccid historical tidbits, Freeman's witty and thoughtful observations are bound to charm. (Aug.) Forecast: New England readers will be particularly tickled by this novel and by the jacket photo of a cow-topped weather vane. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Freeman (The Bride of Ambrose and Other Stories, Judgment Hill) again explores the imaginary town of Ambrose, VT. Before secluding himself in a hotel in Mexico, Mark Noon had been working as a diplomat of sorts in a troubled Latin American country. Then one day he receives a phone call from Orlando Applegate, a respected lawyer in Ambrose, who tells him that he has inherited a farmhouse and a decent sum of money from a long-dead family friend. To claim his bequest, Mark moves to Vermont and onto the dilapidated Littlejohn estate, named after its previous tenant farmer. His story is intermingled with Applegate's conversations about the region's history and the philosophy of living; Mark's love affair with Amanda, Applegate's daughter; lists of Vermont geography and population trends; and Littlejohn's terse weather diary entries. As he comes to love the quiet but difficult country life, Mark discovers that he has found his place in the world. Readers who enjoy unconventional narrative will find Freeman's realistic, down-to-earth prose and wry humor rewarding. Recommended primarily for large public libraries; smaller collections will probably find this a luxury.-Cheryl L. Conway, Univ. of Arkansas Lib., Fayetteville Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Diffuse tale of life in small-town Vermont, narrated by a man who hints at mysteries in his past without satisfactorily exploring them. Mark Noon is well-read and insightful but also curiously elusive about his past. He begins his story in Central America, where he's working for a CIA-like organization after a failed teaching stint at a college where the students were smarter than the faculty. It's the late 1960s, and Noon is not really good at his job, a failure he refers to obliquely throughout here as a way of suggesting, not always persuasively, why he's now content to live on a rutted hillside road on the edge of town. When he learns from Mr. Applegate, a Vermont lawyer, that he's been left money and a house in Bible Hill by Hugo Usher, a friend of his deceased parents, Noon takes up his inheritance. Applegate, who becomes his muse and mentor, explains that Usher, a sketchy figure not seen for seven years, has been declared dead. Noon works at odd jobs, " because once you give up on having a good job you're free." He finds the diaries of Littlejohn, a previous owner, whose laconic entries provide a comforting sense of order; courts Applegate's daughter Amanda; and gets to know his neighbors, the secretive Calabrese and the retired schoolteacher Miss Drumheller. He also offers social and historical commentary, writes luminously of the old "ghost roads" now hidden by forest, of hunting-"deer season remains a time of the year with purpose"-and death. Dying from cancer, Applegate cancels his treatment: he's that rare philosopher who understands that "at some fundamental level, the right way is the easy way." There are some suggestions of final plot twists, but Freeman's latest (after(Judgment Hill, 1997, etc.), wonderfully written and finely wrought, remains a fictional memoir more of a place than a person.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312282615
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/08/2002
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.48(d)

What People are saying about this

Craig Nova
This is a charming book, keenly pleasurable, and one that promises and delivers on every page. (Craig Nova, author of Wetware, The Universal Donor, and Brook Trout and the Writing Life)

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