Synopses & Reviews
Larry Brown has been a force in American literature since taking critics by storm with his debut collection, Facing the Music
, in 1988. His subsequent work—five novels, another story collection, and two books of nonfiction—continued to bring extraordinary praise and national attention to the writer New York Newsday
called a "master."
In November 2004, Brown sent the nearly completed manuscript of his sixth novel to his literary agent. A week later, he died of a massive heart attack. He was fifty-three years old.
A Miracle of Catfish is that novel. Brown's trademarks—his raw detail, pared-down prose, and characters under siege—are all here.
This beautiful, heartbreaking anthem to the writer's own North Mississippi land and the hard-working, hard-loving, hard-losing men it spawns is the story of one year in the lives of five characters—an old farmer with a new pond he wants stocked with baby catfish; a bankrupt fish pond stocker who secretly releases his forty-pound brood catfish into the farmer's pond; a little boy from the trailer home across the road who inadvertently hooks the behemoth catfish; the boy's inept father; and a former convict down the road who kills a second time to save his daughter.
That Larry Brown died so young, and before he could see A Miracle of Catfish published, is a tragedy. That he had time to enrich the legacy of his work with this remarkable book is a blessing.
“Brimming with humor and sympathy for the hardscrabble lives of ordinary people. The only flaw is that it's the last Larry Brown novel we'll be lucky enough to read.”
—People People Magazine
"The result is heartrending. One can only hazard a guess at the missing final chapters, but the brutally funny, eloquent wonders that remain are innumerable. Damned fine, and a damned shame." Booklist
"Larry Brown's posthumous A Miracle of Catfish is, simply enough, a triumph of the sort of visceral intensity that we have learned to expect from Brown. It is certainly a must-read for all of those concerned with American literature in our time." Jim Harrison
"Often humorous but sometimes harrowing, this multilayered story about fatherhood, a boy's go-kart, and a new catfish pond is effortlessly and joyously told. Enthusiastically recommended." Library Journal
"Given an impressive track record...few will doubt that in time, the author would have completed the task and perhaps even crafted a great book." Kirkus Reviews
"The truth of the matter is that Brown is one of the best writers we have, able in a sentence or two to cut to the heart of things."—Washington Post Book World, 1995
“The most compassionate of writers, Brown loves every living no-good heart he commits to paper. . . . A Miracle of Catfish
yields so many pleasures, it hurts to say so.”
— New York Times Book Review New York Times Book Review
"Despite its designation as an "incomplete work" . . . its dry wit and gorgeous intimacy with the natural world make it as satisfying as anything Brown wrote. At the end of its 464 pages, the only thing readers will miss is the craftsman himself."
— Outside magazine Outside
“A Miracle of Catfish
is vintage Brown. It's driven by terse sentences, haunting images and a sense of place you can almost smell and taste . . . [and] filled with memorable characters. . . . Brown was a writer who was never writerly. He was never self-consciously literary, yet created a literature that will last.”
— USA Today USA Today
“A Southern noir stylist publishes his best work. . . . When the novelist Larry Brown died in November 2004, the nation lost an irreplaceable literary voice. Spare, bluesy, and grimly beautiful, his books mapped the rough contours of life in his native north Mississippi. . . . His best work may have been A Miracle of Catfish
. . . . Miracle
is classic Larry, gritty and unflinching, with a wide-as-an-interstate streak of mischief running through its center. . . . [Brown is] a fierce and natural writer, a once-in-a-lifetime comet of big, bad, raw talent.”
When writer Larry Brown died suddenly in 2004 at the age of fifty-three, he left behind an almost completed sixth novel that embodies all the talent and tenacity of his hard-driven life. Set in the low hills just outside Oxford, Mississippi, very close to Larry Brown's own home, A Miracle of Catfish
is the story of one year in the lives of four men and one little boy.
Connecting and suffusing their stories is Brown's brooding contemplation of fatherhood. There is Cortez Sharp, a farmer with a terrible secret and a newly dug pond he is stocking with catfish. Tommy Bright, from Arkansas, has a fish-stocking business he's all but gambled away. Cleve, a black neighbor down the road, has a daughter who's taken up with a man so unworthy he doesn't deserve to live. Little Jimmy, whose daddy gave him a go-kart, has the bad luck to have been born to that daddy, a man beyond redemption.
And then there's Ursula, the mother of all catfish, who has her own secret life near the bottom of Cortez's pond.
In A Miracle of Catfish, Larry Brown's trademark clarity and tenderness, humanity and humor, have been honed to a brilliant edge. As the publisher of his first and all but one of his eight subsequent books, Algonquin is proud to add this classic Brown novel to his extraordinary body of work.
About the Author
Larry Brown was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he lived all his life. At the age of thirty, a captain in the Oxford Fire Department, he decided to become a writer and worked toward that goal for seven years before publishing his first book, Facing the Music, a collection of stories, in 1988. With the publication of his first novel, Dirty Work, he quit the fire station in order to write fulltime. Between then and his untimely death in 2004, he published seven more books. His three grown children and his widow, Mary Annie Brown, live near Oxford.