This astonishing novel was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly and Newsweek. Contained within is the story of Edgar Mint, the half-Apache, mostly orphaned child who overcomes a serious childhood injury to embark on a life of tragedies, including a boarding school for Native Americans and a dysfunctional Mormon foster family.
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If you could sum up The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint in three words, what would they be?
Detailed, Journey, Perseverence
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint?
There were many poignant moments. I was most affected when Edgar visits Cecil for the last time.
If you could take any character from The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint out to dinner, who would it be and why?
I would take Art. He is cantankerous, unassumingly funny, and says the darndest things.
Any additional comments?
Brady Udall's first novel is a detailed, tale of a half-apache mostly-orphaned boy who travels through one difficult situation to another. The story slowly unfolds with a mixture of anguish and all-out laughter. Settle in for a good listen.
In the long-term-care ward of a hospital, a little boy wakes up, a helmet of sorts secured around his head, his mind a blank slate---and so begins a sprawling adventure: Edgar's journey to find out just who, and why, is Edgar Mint. Edgar narrates the tale, and if he "could tell you just one thing", he would want you to know that "when I was 7 yrs. old, the mailman ran over my head." That, more than his name or what he has been told, is the identity he is sure about. He learns about his heartbreaking past and abandonement, he experiences cruelty and rejection, ridicule for being the "retarded" half-breed Indian kid, but he remains above all else, the kid that got his head run over by a mailman, detached but observant, driven to find a purpose, and where he belongs.
Publishers praised Udall's novel saying the characters were "Dickensenian;" critics said the writing was reminiscent of John Irving's; similarites to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest were noted; readers' reviews were over the top (many saying this is now in their top 10 favs); and Michael Stipe (of R.E.M. fame) liked the novel enough to purchase film rights.
Reviews, even as lofty and complimentary as these have been, can be dangerous, and I wish I hadn't read most regarding Edgar Mint, because sometimes you get front-end-loaded by reviews--your experience of a book is colored by them. And that was the case for me. At times, I thought of Huck Finn, but I never had an Owen Meany moment. The characters are memorable, but lack the patina of Dickens' wonderful characters that have weathered the years. The only similarity I could see to Kesey's fabulous Cuckoo's Nest (one of my favorites) was a Native American with mental issues. I do think it will make an amazing movie, and it may be in my top 100.
Without comparisons, Udall can stand on his own merits. He is a very creative and original talent. He has created a beautiful, but often dark and drepressing, book with his own style of grand characters. His writing flows easily; he is descriptive but not verbose, and even in some pitiful moments is able to create humor. One noticeable strength in this book (and a remarkable achievement) is how Udall gave an authentic voice to Edgar, capturing that disconnect and trauma of someone that hasn't experienced a childhood and all the developmental stages we go through--but rather has been fed his childhood, like a bedtime story. Of course, being a talented writer, he weaves into this purposeful tale the inherent need in all of us to be loved, and the real "Miracle"...the power of the heart to love and to forgive.
My background is in psychology so I understood what Udall was doing with Edgar, (and I enjoyed the symbolic trunkload of typing Edgar hauls about) but still I had trouble connecting with him, even though I liked him. I wonder if sometimes Udall was a little too sparse with Edgar's emotions-- perhaps handling that detachment a little too well. But, inspite of my personal little problem, I think this book has broad appeal, with the exception of readers that may be offended with some language and sexual situations. I highly recommend and think that anyone that chooses to listen will have an unforgettable experience. And who knows...Edgar Mint, in time, may join the ranks of Huck Finn, Oliver Twist, Pip, David Copperfield, even "Chief" Bromden.