Modern Ranch Living: A Novel

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9781401300425: Modern Ranch Living: A Novel

"Almost too hot. It had cracked 100 the day before, and the old weatherman on channel four, the guy who Joyce had said was the most accurate but heard was a pervert, had said today would be hotter by a few degrees."

The summer heat in Tucson makes some people dry up and some people boil over. In the dusty, gated desert community of Rancho Sin Vacas (Ranch Without Cattle), a handful of residents are finding that neighborhood life is becoming increasingly bizarre among the crumbling swimming pools, overwatered lawns, and disaffected children.

Sixteen-year-old Kendra obsessively hones her body into a perfectly muscled machine, even as she struggles to master a mounting violent streak. Thomas, her increasingly misanthropic brother, rarely leaves the house, all the while cultivating a disturbing little obsession of his own under the front porch. Down the street, Merv is stuck in a rut, thirty years old and still living at home. Lonely and looking for a way out, he's reaching his breaking point over his insomniac mother, whose oddly compulsive behavior with household appliances threatens to wreak havoc on his life.

When a strung-out, magic marker sniffing teenager disappears from the neighborhood and rumors of murder surface, these malcontents find themselves in an unlikely alliance that will alter the course of one long, sun-baked summerand perhaps their lives.

Funny and disturbing, Modern Ranch Living probes the emptiness of modern American culture, the strange things people do to satisfy their twin hungers for pleasure and oblivion, and the unexpected small acts of kindness they can sometimes perform to ease one another's pain. This delicately deadpan comedy makes brilliantly clear why Mark Jude Poirier was named "the young American writer to watch" by the Times Literary Supplement.

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About the Author:

Mark Jude Poirier grew up in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of two short story collections, Naked Pueblo and Unsung Heroes of American Industry, and the novel Goats. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

Short story writer and novelist Poirier (Naked Pueblo; Goats; etc.) is making a name for himself as a chronicler of the surreal everyday life of the suburban Southwest. In his panoramic, essentially plotless second novel, he captures the aimless, air-conditioner-blasted, pop-culture-saturated nature of existence in Tucson, Ariz. During the summer of 2001, Kendra Lumm and Merv Hunter have nothing in common except proximity. She's a teenaged fitness fanatic, he's the 30-year-old manager of a Splash World, and they both live with their parents in Rancho Sin Vacas, a sprawling gated community in the desert outside Tucson, where growth occurs "at the rate of an acre an hour." Kendra is seeing an anger management therapist, and Merv is trying, halfheartedly, to determine whether he'll always be a loser who lives with his sleepwalking insomniac mother. When a Magic Marker–sniffing juvenile neighbor suddenly disappears, filling everyone with concern and foreboding, the protagonists begin to address their own problems. Kendra and Merv cross paths only occasionally, but their parallel pursuits of happiness are similarly baffled and good-natured. Kendra's strange Valley Girl–like speech patterns ("plussing as which") add a baroque touch to this deadpan expedition into a weird corner of the American psyche.
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Poirier, Mark Jude
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