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Available August 13, 2013
Son of a Gunby Justin St Germain
Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of Tobias Wolff, James Ellroy, and Mary Karr, a stunning memoir of a mother-son relationship that is also the searing, unflinching account of a murder and its aftermath
Tombstone, Arizona, September 2001. Debbie St. Germain’s death in her remote trailer, apparently at the hands of her fifth husband, is a passing curiosity. “A real-life old West murder mystery,” the local TV announcers intone before the commercial break, while barroom gossips snicker cruelly. But for her twenty-year-old son, Justin St. Germain, the tragedy marks the line that separates his world into before and after.
Long after his mother’s death is “solved,” closure still seems missing. Distancing himself from the legendary town of his childhood, Justin makes another life a world away in San Francisco and achieves all the surface successes that would have filled his mother with pride. Yet years later he’s still sleeping with a loaded rifle under his bed. Ultimately, he is pulled back to the desert landscape of his childhood on a search to make sense of the unfathomable. What made his mother, a onetime army paratrooper, the type of woman who would stand up to any man except the men she was in love with? What led her to move from place to place, house to house, man to man, job to job, until finally she found herself in a desperate and deteriorating situation, living on an isolated patch of desert with an unstable ex-cop?
Justin’s journey takes him back to the ghost town of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, to the trailers he and Debbie shared, to the string of stepfathers who were a constant, sometimes threatening presence in his life, to a harsh world on the margins full of men and women all struggling to define what family means. He decides to confront people from his past and delve into the police records in an attempt to make sense of his mother’s life and death. All the while he tries to be the type of man she would have wanted him to be.
Brutally honest and beautifully written, Son of a Gun is a brave, unexpected and unforgettable memoir.
Advance praise for Son of a Gun
“There is a sort of gracefulness in the cadences, and a lovely control of rhythm in the sentences, which do justice to the themes of loss and love that are at the center of this memoir. There is also a level of coiled and accurately conveyed emotion, a careful way of telling truth, and an unsparing release of heartbreak. All of these make Son of a Gun compelling and vivid.”—Colm Tóibín, author of The Testament of Mary
“Try not to marvel at the bare-knuckle prose, try not to get your heart torn to pieces, try not to feel lost in the scabby, sand-scoured western landscape, try not to fall in love with one of the most beautifully raw, brutally honest memoirs I’ve read—I dare you.”—Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
“Intelligent and compassionate at every step, Justin St. Germain stares down his troubled Tombstone boyhood, from shooting cap guns in the shadow of the O.K. Corral to piecing together his murdered mother’s final moments. This is a searing story bravely told.”—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn
About the Author
Justin St. Germain was born in Philadelphia in 1981. He attended the University of Arizona and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He lives in Albuquerque.
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