The Heaven of Mercury by Brad Watson

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Synopsis

Shortlisted for the 2002 National Book Award in Fiction: a dark, riotous Southern novel of sex, death, and transformation.

Brad Watson's first novel has been eagerly awaited since his breathtaking, award-winning debut collection of short stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men. Here, he fulfills that literary promise with a humorous and jaundiced eye. Finus Bates has loved Birdie Wells since the day he saw her do a naked cartwheel in the woods in 1916. Later he won her at poker, lost her, then nearly won her again after the mysterious poisoning of her womanizing husband. Does Vish, the old medicine woman down in the ravine, hold the key to Birdie's elusive character? Or does Parnell, the town undertaker, whose unspeakable desires bring lust for life and death together? Or does the secret lie with some other colorful old-timer in Mercury, Mississippi, not such a small town anymore? With "graceful, patient, insightful and hilarious" prose (USA Today), Brad Watson chronicles Finus's steadfast devotion and Mercury's evolution from a sleepy backwater to a small city. With this "tragicomic story of missed opportunities and unjust necessities" (Fred Chappell), "Southern storytelling is alive and well in Watson's capable hands" (Kirkus Reviews starred review). "His work may remind readers of William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, or Flannery O'Connor, but has a power—and a charm—all its own, more pellucid than the first, gentler than the second, and kinder than the third" (Baltimore Sun).
 

About Brad Watson

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Brad Watson teaches creative writing at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. His first collection, Last Days of the Dog-Men, won the Sue Kauffman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts & Letters; his first novel, The Heaven of Mercury, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and his Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
 
Published December 6, 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company. 353 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Heaven of Mercury

Kirkus Reviews

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The Southern Gothic detail is both shuddery and deliciously absurd, but the real strength of the novel lies in its flexible structure, which allows us to overhear details of Mercury’s overheated history as pieced together by several involved observers, and in Watson’s delicate comprehension of th...

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The Guardian

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Unfulfilled promise, as it turns out, since Birdie eventually marries the philandering Earl Urquhart, while Finus is left to make what he can of an unsatisfactory match with Birdie's scheming friend, Avis.

Jan 17 2004 | Read Full Review of The Heaven of Mercury

Publishers Weekly

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Bates, meanwhile, realizes that Avis has engineered Birdie's marriage, leaving Bates vulnerable to her own rapacious pursuit.

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Entertainment Weekly

Watson's quirky first novel is set in Mercury, Miss., a fictional small town with a dark and steamy Southern gothic atmosphere.

Aug 16 2002 | Read Full Review of The Heaven of Mercury

Reader Rating for The Heaven of Mercury
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