Carl Stein, a professional con man, moves in on Carl and Venus Blalock, an unsuspecting couple in a small Texas town. Over the course of the con, Stein's wife, May, befriends Venus. But not even May's accidental drowning when the two couples are on a summer picnic stops Stein from stealing thousands of dollars from the Blalocks and then disappearing. Venus and the two Carls narrate a fast-paced story as they flee to Mexico. On their frantic road trip, they encounter an intriguing range of people, from a man stuck in a Keno parlor to a reporter determined to steal a million-dollar jackpot. In this novel about downfall and redemption, each narrator eventually regains control of his or her own life through the intervention of chance.
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A con man befriends a Texas couple and sends their life spinning out of control in Jarrard's second novel (after Over There), a lyrical, mystical suspense tale that begins when Carl Blalock meets a drifter named Carl Stein and ends up hiring him to work in his hardware and lumber store. The friendship between the two men is paralleled by a deeper bond between their attractive wives, and when Stein's spouse, May, drowns during a swimming outing, Blalock's wife, Venus, leaves him, realizing that she was really in love with May. That decision, along with Stein's move to rob his erstwhile friend of $7,000, sets off a chain of events in which Venus and Stein hit the road separately and inadvertently end up meeting in a Louisiana casino, while Blalock takes off for Mexico and begins a passionate, dreamy affair of his own. The motives of the various characters often seem dubious as the plot unfolds, but the quality of Jarrard's prose is high, and he depicts in convincing detail the complex interactions between characters, throwing in some occasional observations from those they encounter on the road. He also integrates the more surreal aspects of casino life into the passages in which Stein and Venus test one another, and he captures the hazy, disembodied feel of Carl Blalock's interlude in Mexico. The ending features a casino jackpot as well as an intriguing fate for the shifty yet strangely appealing Stein, but it is the beauty of the writing that carries the day and proves this a promising sophomore effort.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.From Library Journal:
Brooding and dark, this is a disturbing, complex novel by Jarrard (Over There) about a middle-aged married couple, Venus and Carl Blalock, whose lives are thrown into turmoil by a con man named Stein and his beautiful and unconventional wife, May. The Steins appears at the Blalocks' hardware store in Texas one morning, setting in motion a series of events that leads to catastrophe. At the center of the novel is the deeply intimate friendship that develops between Venus and May, which precipitates a crisis in the Blalock marriage. When May is accidentally drowned, Venus is inconsolable, and she sets out alone, plunging recklessly into a nightmare of alcohol and promiscuity. The remainder of the novel charts the Blalocks' arduous journey toward reconciliation. Although it has its share of weaknesses (particularly in terms of plotting and secondary characters), there is much to recommend in this novel, including skillfully drawn main characters. Of particular note is Jarrard's portrayal of Venus, which is richly and psychologically complex. Recommended for libraries with large fiction collections. Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Steerforth Press, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: Used: Good. Bookseller Inventory # SONG1586420267
Book Description Steerforth Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. This copy shows very minor wear. Bookseller Inventory # G1586420267I4N00
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