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Ordinary Monsters
     

Ordinary Monsters

by Karen Novak
 

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Nestled in a hidden valley, Lágrimas is the last stop for a host of eccentric and questionable souls. When Joyce arrives looking for her son on a tip from a hitchhiker who claims to have seen him there, she settles in a bit too quickly for the locals comfort. Much to her crushing disappointment, the boy shes been led to is not her son, but an emotionally battered

Overview

Nestled in a hidden valley, Lágrimas is the last stop for a host of eccentric and questionable souls. When Joyce arrives looking for her son on a tip from a hitchhiker who claims to have seen him there, she settles in a bit too quickly for the locals comfort. Much to her crushing disappointment, the boy shes been led to is not her son, but an emotionally battered teenager who communicates solely through lines from The Tempest. The locals, suspicious of Joyces intent, believe that she has brought with her the forces of the Owl, a devastating storm that threatens to demolish Lágrimas once every decade.

Like a storm, the histories of Joyce and all of Lágrimas inhabitants come raining down over the course of this riveting novel. Emotionally wrought and ultimately redeeming, Ordinary Monsters is a remarkable story about the sorrow of loss and the gift of healing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Those who miss watching the TV movie-of-the-week may find comfort in Novak's second novel (after Five Mile House), a melodramatic but earnest story about a desperate mother in search of her missing son. Joyce, a Vermont wife, is distraught when her 17-year-old son and his girlfriend run away. One evening, she empties her savings accounts, abandons her husband and heads west, toting photos of her son and his girlfriend. On a tip from a hitchhiker, she aims for Lygrimas, a dead-end California town on the edge of the Mojave Desert. There she meets young Danny, a lost soul who has been taken in by the locals. Danny, quite implausibly, communicates only in sections of dialogue from Shakespeare's The Tempest; out of a desire to mother him, or simply because she lacks any other options, Joyce buys the town's only bar, the Hoodoo, and waits for her son to turn up. She finds solace in the people of Lygrimas, perhaps because they are as desperate and worn-out as she is, though many remain suspicious of her. There's Duncan, Danny's primary caretaker and roughneck owner of a scrap yard; TJ, the Hoodoo's cheery waitress; and a group of hard-drinking regulars who are a quirky, more depressed version of the gang from Cheers. It's no secret that all the elements - from the oddball Lygrimas residents to the angelic Danny - are all carefully positioned to push Joyce down the path to redemption. A burgeoning romance with Duncan and a subplot concerning a murder at the scrap yard fail to generate sparks, but Joyce's overwhelming sense of loss is ably communicated. (June 5) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An alcoholic mother hits the road in search of her disappeared son and finds herself in a strange little California desert oasis: a story that doesn't quite find itself. Joyce is having problems, and second-novelist Novak (Five Mile House, 2000) doesn't hesitate to drop us smack down in the middle of them. At the start, Joyce is in her Saturn, loaded with guilt, purpose, and a shopping bag stuffed full of her life's savings, and barreling down the road toward New York on a mission to find her teenaged son, who disappeared after getting involved with a dangerous girl who might have been a junkie. In the first hint that this isn't supposed to be a strictly realistic tale, Joyce picks up a hitchhiker who takes one look at a photo of her son and his girlfriend and says that he thinks he saw them at the Hoodoo Bar and Grill in a California town called Lagrimas. After barely surviving a surreal duststorm, Joyce finds herself at the Hoodoo, where the locals introduce her to an autistic teenager by the name of Danny, who speaks only in Shakespeare quotes and bears a striking-but not exact-resemblance to her son. From here on, the story's improbabilities and digressions begin to pile up like poorly stacked wood and Novak disperses whatever outer-limits suspense she might have built up in the novel's striking beginning. New characters keep getting introduced, but none of them-with the possible exception of Duncan, a man with a buried past who's acting as Duncan's ward-contributes much to the story. It doesn't help matters that Lagrimas comes off not as some hidden place on the edge of magical realism, but as a half-baked attempt at quirky localism. Shakespeare and once-a-decade duststorms fail tomake Ordinary Monsters into anything but an ordinary story albeit about extraordinary things.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596918672
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
12/05/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
592 KB

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Meet the Author

Karen Novak is the author of Five Mile House. She lives in Ohio.

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