Inspired by Carl Hiaasen and Victor D. LaValle in equal measure, Solon Timothy Woodward mines the nether regions of Florida in search of high drama and raucous comedy. Full of sex, death, and humor, this bawdy, brilliant debut introduces us to three generations of a family in the boisterous, unholy, uncompromising landscape that is the South of today. Nowhere are the careless vagaries of fate more evident than in a town called Johnsonville on the northern Florida coast, where a family called the Toaks have pushed every possible social boundary to its logical extreme for three generations. Feddy Toak, in his forties, is a medical school dropout, recovering alcohol and cocaine addict, and former handyman. He lives marginally in cheap rental properties owned by his father, Teo, one of Johnsonville's most prosperous bail bondsmen, slumlord, and idol to a diminishing old guard of hustlers and con men who frequent such dives as the He Ain't Here Lounge. Jesmond Toak, Feddy's son, haunted by his father's violent past and current failures, is turning toward the low road. The entire city seethes with schemes and intrigue and the plot builds as monies are reaped from a black youth falsely arrested for the murder of a white cop, insurance scams involving poor residents stricken with cancer and AIDS, and nefarious land deals involving cemeteries and real-estate scam artists. Suicides and murders, infidelities and violence mount and converge with shattering precision on the eve of a hurricane, forcing the entire community to struggle with its demons -- and search for some chance at redemption. Chronicling a slice of American landscape and culture with rare levels of depth and originality, Cadillac Orpheus defies categorization: it is by turns exuberant, terrifying, hilarious, brave, brazen, and, above all, wondrous.
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(229mm x 152mm x 25mm)
Simon & Schuster
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Woodward, a Pushcart Prize nominee and Florida-based physician, tries much too hard to marry bawdy comedy to Southern melodrama in his overstuffed, restless and fundamentally confounding debut novel. Populated with literally dozens of tangential characters frequenting its many seedy bars, the fictional town of Johnsonville, Fla., is home turf for an African-American family pitted against their enemies and each other. Theodore "Teo" Toak is a bail bondsman turned slumlord who possesses ruthless confidence and the instincts of a jackal. He's profoundly disappointed with his apathetic son, Feddy, who never quite recovered after a paramour he'd beaten senseless put three bullets in him for his trouble. The only semi-decent member of the family might be Feddy's son, Jesmond, a reluctant repo man who does dirty work for a predatory rent-to-own shop. Jesmond has a lot on his mind: His pregnant lover Peaches is married to a half-cocked military policeman, and his gay friend Bayonne has been accused of murdering a 500-pound white man. Looming in the background is town father Medgar Coots, an addiction consultant to the city's AIDS alliance who embroils his ailing charges in a fraudulent insurance scheme. Woodward has a flair for capturing absurdity, and he gains some traction portraying the clash of personalities between devious Coots and provocative Teo, who loses his fortunes but gains a conscience in the midst of Hurricane Burt. Unfortunately, the whirlpool of ill-conceived scams, eccentric characters and superfluous elements ultimately drowns his more interesting inventions. Woodward aims to apply a lyrical Southern Gothic tone to his modern-day surroundings. Avoiding this would have been smarter. Reads as though a dozen decent short stories had been hurled into a blender. (Kirkus Reviews)
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