by Udall, Brady
Publisher:W. W. Norton
Debut novelist Brady Udall's The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint is a moving tragic-comedy that has been compared to the works of John Irving. The tender humour of this novel, coupled with subtly explored issues, makes this an outstanding read. Udall's prose style is engaging and refreshing, and the voice of the narrator is utterly convincing. When eight-year-old Edgar Mint gets his head squashed by a post van on the Apache reservation where he lives with his alcoholic mother, it is the beginning of a new life. Resurrected from near death by a junior doctor, Edgar find himself in a new environment, sharing a ward with three men in various states of serious injury, the focus of the hospital's attention and with no recollection of his previous life. So begins Edgar's journey.
This is essentially a rites of passage novel. But the passage that Edgar must take is more painful than most. With no memory and with only a typewriter for company, he faces alienation among his people, is disregarded as retarded and is shoved out of sight by white America to a tough school for troublesome reservation children. Edgar seeks the solace of acceptance or escape, anything to take him away from the suffering of being different, of being an outsider. By showing Edgar learning about himself, understanding the world around him, and experiencing everything again for the first time, Udall explores the big explosive themes of religion, race, identity and gender with a deft hand. There is nothing ham-fisted in his treatment of these issues. They are dealt with in a quiet but direct manner, through the eyes of a child coming to terms with the absurdity of humanity. This is, in some ways, also a rags-to-riches story and the notion of what exactly it is that enriches our lives is central. Edgar must first journey before he ultimately discovers this wealth. His journey is a search for identity, for the missing gaps in his life and it is only when all these gaps are filled that Edgar can discover his true worth. --Iain Robinson
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