Cycholl presents a debut novel about an imposter physician and a country in trouble.
Dr. Rex Ayers has died, and his son,the unnamed narrator of this strange tale, embarks on a road trip of sorts, eventually landing in the rural Minnesota town of Assumption.It is here that he’ll pretend to be a doctor—and assume the name of his father as he does it. The new “Dr. Rex Ayers” hangs up a shingle as a psychiatrist, but people in the area are so desperate for medical attention that they’ll trust him with just about any sort of physical disorder. The narrator studies his father’s old textbooks in his off hours while doing his best to diagnose lesions, counsel expectant mothers, and get to know the locals. He also takes up with a nurse who used to steal painkillers, and he earns the confidence of a strange man who claims to have been a member of the state militia of Louisiana. Meanwhile, it seems that the United States is in trouble, with a new bombing or other act of violence hitting the news daily in locations throughout the 50 states. This fake doctor may prove to be a self-described “passable healer,”but what will become of a nation that’s apparently “at war inside herself”? This wild tale of a pretend physician comes with a few elements that lends the setting a slightly quirky tone, as well. For instance, the narrator recollects how, as a youngster, he dreamed of joining the Merchant Marine; his father helped him train by having him scurry up trees, where he’d spray him with a garden hose, which the local police found a real hoot. Add into the mix some poetic reflections on the nation (“For every California, a Utah. For every Vegas, a Salt Lake City”), and the story’s varying moods leave a lasting impression. Nevertheless, the reader is always kept on edge with feelings of imminent danger, as the protagonist could get into big trouble at any moment; after all, every new patient, every interaction with a real doctor, and even every headline are opportunities for all-out chaos.
A bizarre yet increasingly tense scenario set to poems of America.