Americana Tom McNeal Goodnight, Nebraska

ISBN 13: 9780679457336

Goodnight, Nebraska

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9780679457336: Goodnight, Nebraska

At the age of 17, Randall Hunsacker shoots his mother's boyfriend, steals a car and comes close to killing himself. His second chance lies in a small Nebraska farm town, where the landmarks include McKibben's Mobil Station, Frmka's Superette, and a sign that says The Wages of Sin is Hell. This is Goodnight, a place so ingrown and provincial that Randall calls it "Sludgeville"-until he starts thinking of it as home.

In this pitch-perfect novel, Tom McNeal explores the currents of hope, passion, and cruelty beneath the surface of the American heartland. In  Randall, McNeal creates an outcast whose redemption lies in Goodnight, a strange, small, but ultimately embracing community where Randall will inspire fear and adulation, win the love of a beautiful girl and nearly throw it all away.
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Review:

Randall Hunsacker, the protagonist of Tom McNeal's first novel, Goodnight, Nebraska, is only 17, but already he has two strikes against him: his father's death when Randall was thirteen led to a succession of "stepfathers" moving through his life and the last one, Lenny, Randall has shot. The shooting, a suicide attempt, and a stint in juvenile hall is what brings Randall to the small town of Goodnight, Nebraska--a place where he hopes to start over. He gets a job, earns a place on the high school football team and even starts dating one of the cheerleaders; things are looking up for Randall. But in a town like Goodnight--Hicksburg, to Randall, or ShitdeVille--what goes up must eventually come down. And so it is for Randall--he gets injured during a football game and his girlfriend, thinking he's dead, announces they are engaged, and before he knows it, he is married, living in a trailer, facing a life that seems to have dead-ended before it even got started.

Appearances can be deceiving, however. To Randall and his wife, Marcy, Goodnight seems like the last place on earth; he never imagined himself coming here, she never stopped dreaming about getting out. Much of McNeal's novel has to do with the gradual disintegration of Randall and Marcy's marriage; at the same time it limns a warm portrait of a middle-American town that may not be very exciting to live in, but one where people know they can count on each other in a pinch. It takes Marcy leaving--and Randall going after her--to finally teach them both that there's really no place like Goodnight.

About the Author:

Tom McNeal lives in Fallbrook, CA.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

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