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The Loss of Leon Meed: A Novelby Josh Emmons
Synopses & Reviews
In Josh Emmons's inventive and utterly engaging debut, ten residents of Eureka, California, are brought together by a mysterious man, Leon Meed, who repeatedly and inexplicably appears — in the ocean, at a local rock music club, clinging to the roof of a barreling truck, standing in the middle of Main Street's oncoming traffic — and then, as if by magic, disappears.
Young and old, married and single, punk and evangelical, black, white, and Korean, each witness to these bewildering events interprets them differently, yet all of their lives are changed — by the phenomenon itself, and by what it provokes in them. And whether they in turn stagger toward love, or heartbreakingly dissolve it, Emmons's portrayal of their stories is strikingly real and emotionally affecting.
"In his affecting but meandering debut, Emmons explores how the lives of a loosely connected group of residents of Eureka, Calif., are changed by the sudden, mysterious appearances (and disappearances) of a local man who's been reported missing. From teenage Lillith, the pregnant, practicing Wiccan, to 'black as he can be' Prentiss, a recovering alcoholic, and Elaine, the fourth-grade teacher who suffers through two troubled marriages, each character visited by Leon Meed receives equal narrative treatment by Emmons, which highlights his talent for subtle ventriloquism but gives the book its curiously unfocused quality. Even Leon's bewildering plight stays somehow on the periphery; barring an unsuccessful pagan ceremony designed to pull him back from the astral plane, no one much tries to help him. Halfway into the book, Emmons, in a flurry of exposition, goes through the backstory about how Leon started disappearing after the accidental death of his wife and daughter. The novel then skips ahead 10 years, returning to each character as they learn of Leon's death. While Leon is supposed to be a catalyst for each character's personal enlightenment, too many self-discoveries from too many people keep their stories from fully resonating. This is a promising debut that suffers from its outsized ambitions. Agent, Susan Golomb. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In an imaginative and eminently readable debut, Emmons binds together a roster of strangers in a weirdly likable tale of the supernatural....A sparkling and witty debut." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"It is sometimes difficult to keep track of the large cast....Still, Emmons shows considerable flair in his striking ability to give his whimsical premise such philosophical overtones." Booklist
"From the most unlikely of circumstances — a man who has come unstuck in time — Emmons constructs a story that is both wholly original and poignantly familiar. Part mystery, part meditation on longing, part love story, The Loss of Leon Meed is a gripping, evocative, heart-wrenching novel." Alison Smith, author of Name All the Animals
"As remarkable and moving a portrait of America as I have seen in some time. Through a large cast of affecting characters, Josh Emmons pieces together the emotional life of a small city with a wit and range that recalls Robert Altman's 'Nashville.' Mature yet playful, fanciful yet brimming with the details of contemporary life, The Loss of Leon Meed leaves us with an odd feeling of hard-won hope. The hope that in our society kindness and reason may one day prevail." Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook
"What a pleasure to be welcomed to a brand-new world. Josh Emmons's Eureka, mapped with well-chosen details and a sympathetic eye, is populated by terrific characters whose quests for love, faith and mystery interlock with delicate grace and humor. I enjoyed them all, especially the enigmatic Leon Meed. His loss is our gain." Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil
Emmons pens a highly imaginative debut novel about a town full of varied characters whose lives converage and change when they encounter a mysterious, disappearing man.
About the Author
Born in 1973, Josh Emmons was raised in Northern California and received an MFA and teaching fellowship from the University of Iowa. He recently won the James Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award, which counts Michael Cunningham, Ann Patchett, Elizabeth McCracken, Ethan Canin, Nathan Englander, Adam Haslett, and Ann Packer as former winners. He lives with his wife in New Orleans.
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