Twenty years ago, a first novel appeared and instantly announced the arrival of a master storyteller. T. R. Pearson's A Short History of a Small Place was hailed as "an absolute stunner" (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post) and its hero, young Louis Benfield, was dubbed "a youth not as wry as Holden Caulfield, but certainly as observant, and with a bigger, even sadder heart" (Fran Schumer, The New York Times).
Now, older but not necessarily wiser, Louis Benfield returns in Glad News of the Natural World. In order to get a sense of the larger world, he has moved to New York City from his hometown of Neely, North Carolina. Louis is a modern-day Candide, looking for love and experience in all the wrong places. However, when tragedy strikes, he finds the maturity to be more than man enough for the job.
Whether catching up with Louis Benfield and the denizens of Neely or meeting them for the first time, readers will find Glad News of the Natural World hilarious and heartbreaking, warm and wise.
Louis Benfield is back and grown up (more or less) in this hilarious if meandering tale of a modern-day Southern slacker, the sequel to A Short History of a Small Place. The book follows Louis as he moves to New York City from Neely, N.C., to start his first real job, at Meridian Life and Casualty, where he quickly works his way down from trainee to assistant handyman. Surprisingly, the demotion doesn't much bother him because, as Louis describes himself, "I'd gone to college halfway across the state, had come home with a degree but precious little professional ambition." After he loses his job at Meridian, Louis falls into a nominal career as a commercial actor. He supplements his income driving for a Yemeni car service and making occasional repairs to stolen merchandise for a low-level mob boss. At one point, the mob boss decides Louis would be the perfect match for his preening daughter, but when she rejects him out of hand, nothing of consequence happens. The problem with focusing on such a shiftless narrator is that the story can't help reflecting his purposelessness, so the novel rambles gracefully without ever quite getting anywhere.