Mother Country by Peg Leon

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Synopsis

This evocative first novel, by turns haunting and touchingly amusing, is structured around three deaths in the summer of 1950, the unusual funerals, and the far more serious consequences that follow. Told in a series of vignettes, tall tales and remembrances, and peopled by a host of characters as wild as the lives they lead, the immigrant community of 6th Street, Taylor, Nevada is home to a mixed bag of Eastern Europeans. They live their old way and care for those uniquely their own: the injured, those wandering in heart or mind, and their young who are restless to leave the past behind and move forward into this new world.

The time is one of second generations and of transitions in this dirt-poor mining town. The central character is Mala, orphaned daughter of a local hero and an 'outsider' mother who died under mysterious circumstances. Mala has been raised by her widowed grandmother, whose death sets in motion a series of events that forever alters the course of her life.

Left in the care of an entire street of women – miners' widows with their covered dishes, gossip and stories – Mala eagerly absorbs the history of these émigrés and learns their traditions. Urged by her aunt Anna, monarch of the family clan to join the household, Mala is instead drawn to her rebellious cousin, Josie, Anna’s daughter, who is eager to leave the confines of this western ghetto.

As Mala sorts through her choices, she bears witness to significant changes occurring in town, changes that threaten the fragile peace between the immigrant families living on 6th Street and the long established bosses and merchants residing above Main. Matters are brought to a head when a new Sheriff arrives in town, and when Josie is about to leave the community for college. Mala must learn to integrate her own and her town's history while piecing together a possible future for herself.

 

About Peg Leon

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Published December 1, 2003 by Permanent Pr Pub Co. 240 pages
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Like much of Nevada, Taylor is more than vaguely disreputable (one of the local sheriffs was a Mormon who sold moonshine and died in a bordello), but for Mala it’s a warm, familial place filled with decent odd people (like Naked Sal, the town nudist, or the Methodist-Minister-Without-a-Flock) who...

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Publishers Weekly

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Leon's plotting lacks momentum, but she compensates with some excellent character writing and a wide-open prose style, ranging from baroque and surreal to tender and insular, depending on whether she's describing the town's strange characters and their odd adventures or the intricacies of Mala's ...

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