Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall

Due to 32 guests coming for dinner on Thanksgiving and the multitude of preparations I am undertaking, I am presenting you with a book review I wrote in 2003.  This book is one of my favorites and if you read the review you will see why.  Edgar Mint is a character I have never forgot.  Read on!

     Edgar Mint enters the novel as a seven-year-old, half Apache Indian living on a reservation in Arizona.  His world is one of harsh realities, a father who he has never met, a mother who is a drunkard who doesn’t much care about the whereabouts of her only child, and a grandma who is aging and finds herself unable to control the downfall of her family.  The first sentence grabs hold of your attention so that you can never let go.  “If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head.  As formative events go, nothing else comes close.”  Pg. 13

Thus begins Edgar’s miraculous and tragic life.  He is the most endearing kid and despite everything you can’t help rooting for him and hoping that he will succeed in his mission of life.   His most treasured possessions are a typewriter and a urinal puck.  He sleeps with the urinal puck to keep away the ghosts at night because it makes him feel safe.  After he finally leaves the hospital he is sent to an Indian Boarding School in the desert where he meets his best friend.  We are a witness to his coming of age.  For me, I have never learned so much about a boy growing into a man and the unique challenges they face.  I think all men could relate to the changes Edgar experienced.

Religion is an underlying theme in the novel because God is the underlying theme in our very existence.  It is natural for a young boy who lives a miracle life to try and understand God.  “Edgar says, “God was out there.  He had touched me and I had felt His presence, which was more than I could say about my own father.” “But he also believes that “either God was a crazed lunatic or He was just plain mean.” Pg. 311

Reservation life is not easy.  It is a place where quiet desperation and hopelessness exists.  The dumping ground of the American Indian.   I remember driving to a reservation in Washington State and commenting on the beauty of the landscape and the harsh reality of the people who lived there.  It was beautiful but it was sand and nothing could grow there.  The houses were very small and falling apart with many families sharing close quarters.  It is the faces of the children I cannot forget, the sadness, their future already foretold. It reminds me of Edgar’s reservation in the desert with a beer tree in his front yard.

This book is tragedy meets comedy.  Sometimes I laughed and sometimes I cried and sometimes I had to put the book down because I just couldn’t believe what was going to happen next.  I felt a whole range of emotions.  I celebrated Edgar’s triumphs and felt anger at some of the choices that I felt he didn’t need to make.   Now that I am finished with the novel, I find myself missing Edgar and all of his eccentrics.

This is the author, Brady Udall’s debut novel.  It has been compared to Charles Dickens’ book, Great Expectations.  The writing is descriptive, and the characters full of heartache and irony.  This book might be a step out of some peoples comfort zones.  Take that step, leave your safe environment and explore the world because you just might meet the most memorable character named Edgar Mint.


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