Elizabeth McCracken seems to specialize in unlikely romance. Her charmingly quirky debut, The Giant's House, was the story of a librarian's passion for the world's tallest boy. The equally inventive Niagara Falls All Over Again is the story of a vaudevillian's love for the one person he can't be without--his partner in comedic crime:
You try to recall your wedding day, and you remember a fat man. Or the birth of your first kid, and you remember a fat man. You loved your wife, who died decades ago; you love your kids, who you see once a week. But facts are facts: every time you try to remember anything, the fat man comes strolling into your brain, his hands in his pockets, whiskey on his breath. A vaudeville team that makes the leap to B-movie fame, Carter and Sharp have perfected a classic shtick: the stern professor and the hapless, bumbling Rocky. Offscreen, however, their roles are reversed. Mose Sharp is mild-mannered and accommodating, while Rocky Carter is a jovial bully--the kind of guy, Sharp thinks, who "compared the slices of cake on an arriving dessert tray and got disappointed, really disappointed, when the largest was delivered to somebody who wasn't him."
Show business is a subject tailor-made for McCracken's eccentric gifts: her timing is impeccable, and she's no slouch with the jokes either. But she's not playing this one just for laughs. As anyone who read The Giant's House knows, McCracken writes prose of uncommon beauty, studded with images both arresting and sad. Sharp's first few encounters with his wife, for example, are like "a pan of warm water inside my chest almost shoulder high, filled but perilous. It was the balancing that amazed me. Every time I thought of when I'd see her, the pan wobbled, but didn't spill, and the feat of carrying it astounded me again." This second novel is a balancing act on an even greater scale: tender but never sentimental, verbally dexterous but never merely clever. Like its predecessor, Niagara Falls will have you reading aloud to whomever will listen. --Mary Park [via]