Synopses & Reviews
Spanning western Europe from 1875 to 1917 and presenting a gothic historical Paris that subverts our old assumptions regarding the City of Light, M. Allen Cunninghams new novel brings a brooding atmosphere and human complexity to an intimate and imaginative portrait of one of the most uniquely sensitive artists of his time, a poet whose odd childhood and difficult early life will both fascinate and perhaps help explain his determination to stay true to his artistic vision at almost any cost. Here is Rainer Maria Rilke in the grip of his greatest artistic struggle: life itself.
Rilkes gripping emotional drama as child, lover, husband, father, protégé, misfit soldier, and wanderer is framed by a haunted young figure, a researcher who, a century later, feels compelled to trace Rilkes itinerant footsteps and those of Rilkes fictional alter ego, the bewitched poet Malte Laurids Brigge. The result is an exploration of the forever imperfect loyalties we face in work and life, the seemingly immeasurable distances that can separate life and art, and the generational tensions between masters and admirers.
"With its cast of quirky Ohio scrap-metal workers, Zafris's first novel, The Metal Shredders (2002), revealed her talent for capturing an unfamiliar world; her second accomplishes a similar feat with uranium prospectors in Utah. It's 1954, and widowed Jean Waterman has brought her two children west, hoping that the desert air will soothe the weak lungs of her son, Charlie, and that the desert's soil will yield treasures of uranium. She meets Harry, an ex-Mormon traveling salesman who deals in Geiger counters and other prospecting paraphernalia; Jo Dawson, the girlish wife of a good-for-nothing lout determined to spend his last pennies in a quest for uranium; Miss Dazzle, the 'people person' proprietress of the Stagecoach Oasis motel and a host of colorful folk. In the lonely Utah desert, the wanderers form an unlikely family; there are loves, loyalties and secrets, though nothing much happens. Harry falls in love with Jean and Jo and worries that polygamy is in his genes; Miss Dazzle's cheerful personality hides a deeper loneliness. In this lovely book, Zafris finds power in the slow, mute strangeness of everyday anxiety, the blossoming of hope in a barren desert and the terrible irony of what uranium means to those who seek it." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Zafris...invests her offbeat material with deep emotion and tragic undertones....Like Marianne Wiggins's
quirky, superb Evidence of Things Unseen
(2003), this novel is both disturbing and hypnotic." Booklist (Starred Review)
"What a wild ride this book is. The characters are plucky, sympathetic, and memorable, the situations sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes bittersweet, and the pacing just right. Zafris is a keen observer of the human comedy; highly recommended for all libraries." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Zafris's dry sense of humor runs through the story, a counterpoint to the poignancy of Charlie's illness, the desperation of the uranium seekers, and the not-yet-understood danger of radiation poisoning. The sinister, thrilling mushroom cloud of the bomb casts its shadow over everything. Lucky Strike is a quirky novel that rewards careful reading." Boston Globe
"Laced with quiet tongue-in-cheek humor and told from multiple viewpoints, the adventures of this quirky cast of characters makes for a warmhearted, entertaining read." Denver Post
"Eerie...[a] noir-tinged adventure story... One could read Lucky Strike as a historical portrait of a time and place. All the realistic details, though, reverberate with unsettling implications. The characters don't know how poisonous their environment is, but readers know and dread the future effects on the characters of the uranium they long to find." Columbus Dispatch
"Zafris's writing lets emotions and memories penetrate each other the way they do in ordinary thought, though seldom in fiction... Zafris' sentences is as sharp-edged as a miner's pick." Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
A young widow and her two children catch uranium fever in the 1950s and join the throng of self-styled prospectors heading to the desert Southwest, hoping to strike it rich, by the author of The Metal Shredders.
Just as she did in her New York Times
Notable debut novel, The Metal Shredders
, Nancy Zafris follows a colorful cast of characters into uncharted fictional territory, this time landing in the canyon country of the desert Southwest in 1954.
For motivations as straightforward as striking it rich to reasons far more complex and confounding, they each embark on very personal divergent journeys across an unforgiving countryside, even while their quest to find uranium unites them.
By turns meditative and funny, frightening, witty and refreshingly wise, Lucky Strike explores the ways that lanuguage simply put can mine the inexpressible. In the process, a young widow and her two children learn much about uranium but even more about the nature of the love that binds them. This is a story to touch your heart.
About the Author
Nancy Zafris is a Flannery O'Connor Award winner for her story collection, The People I Know. Currently the fiction editor of The Kenyon Review, she lives in Columbus, Ohio.