Modern Ranch Living by Mark Jude Poirier
A Novel

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Synopsis

"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.

 

About Mark Jude Poirier

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Mark Jude Poirier grew up in Tucson, in a family of eleven children. He received a Maytag fellowship while at the Iowa Writers Workshop and was recently awarded a James A. Michener Fellowship. He is also a graduate of Georgetown, Stanford, and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. His stories have appeared in Jane, Bomb, and Tin House. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
 
Published September 8, 2004 by Miramax. 304 pages
Genres: Westerns, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Set in the same Arizona city as his story collection, Naked Pueblo (1999), Poirier’s second novel tracks the lives of 16-year-old Kendra Lumm and 30-year-old Merv Hunter.

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Publishers Weekly

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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.

Jul 26 2004 | Read Full Review of Modern Ranch Living: A Novel

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