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Big Rayby Michael Kimball
Synopses & Reviews
Big Ray's temper and obesity define him. When Big Ray dies, his son feels mostly relief, dismissing his other emotions. Yet years later, the adult son must reckon with the outsized presence of his father's memory. This stunning novel, narrated in more than five hundred brief entries, moves between past and present, between his father's death and his life, between an abusive childhood and an adult understanding. Shot through with humor and insight that will resonate with anyone who has experienced a complicated parental relationship, Big Ray is a staggering family story — at once brutal and tender, sickening and beautiful.
"Kimball's novel starts with death, but what's really sad is the life the dead man — Big Ray, the narrator's father — lived. Unhappy child of unhappy parents, Ray becomes an abuser who eats himself to 500 pounds. His wife gone, children grown, Ray's body is found only when his apartment manager comes looking for the rent; as his son says, 'I'm glad my father didn't die at the beginning of the month. I don't know how long it would have been before somebody found him.' This stark depiction of the wages of isolation is typical of the book, which Kimball (Us) tells in 500 brief snippets that refuse to add sentiment or excuse to the difficult facts the narrator feels compelled to relate. Facts is a funny word here, as is compelled — but the book reads like a memoir, the entirely believable product of a son grappling with the death and life of his father. The narrator talks frankly of his estrangement and efforts to connect, the abuse he suffered and his mixed feelings; the obituary, he notes, listed those who preceded Ray in death and those who survived him. 'I'm one of the people who survived,' says Big Ray's son. Kimball shows the truth of this, but also its sad, shifting complexity. Agent: Phyllis Westberg, Harold Ober Associates. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"In this tender, gorgeous novel, Michael Kimball explores how we try to understand even the most difficult family members." Oprah.com Book of the Week
"Michael Kimball has been writing innovative, compelling and beautifully felt books for years, but Big Ray seems a break-through and culmination all at once. It's funny and terrifying and it's his masterpiece, at least so far." Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask
"An uncompromising work of power and grace. I finished reading it a week ago, but I still can't put it down." Jon McGregor, author of This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You
"Big Ray, the man, made an indelible human impression on me. Big Ray, Michael Kimball's terrific new novel, is genuinely moving because it is so rigorously unsentimental. Kimball is a powerful and courageous writer." Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia and Eat the Document
"Elegy, meditation, story, final reckoning — whatever you want to call it, Big Ray is mesmerizing. Sorrowful and honest, the kind of book that compels, not compromises." Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution
"Big Ray is disturbing in the most extraordinary ways, and in the end extraordinarily touching also. There's nothing quite like it Ive ever read till now (though there were times I thought the ghost of Barry Hannah was whispering in my ear.) Its amazing." Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising
About the Author
Michael Kimball is the author of The Way the Family Got Away, Dear Everybody, and, most recently, Us, and his novels have been translated into a dozen languages. His work has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and in the Guardian, Vice, Bomb, and New York Tyrant. He is also responsible for the project Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) and a couple of documentary films. He lives in Baltimore. Visit his website at michael-kimball.com.
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