Citrus County by John Brandon
The full Catapult review. In that earlier review I called this “a powerful, funny, bizarre little novel of adolescent longing, loss, and general, everyday misery that creaks along down the dark halls of narration with a resounding reality and clarity of prose.” Despite its tough surface subject matter (a teenaged boy kidnaps his friend’s little sister and keeps her locked in an underground bunker in the woods. What?) there’s an intangible magnetism to the characters and the story that unfolds at their feet. Besides, a lot of it is hilariously funny!
Citrus County, Florida has “no beaches and no amusement parks and no hotels and no money.” But it does have “rednecks and manatees and sinkholes (and plenty of) insects, not gentle crickets but creatures with stingers and pincers and scorn in their hearts.”
Our narrators wander on the extremities of what is socially acceptable – teenaged kidnapper Toby in his blunted rage; the disaffected geography teacher, Mr. Hibma with his thinly veiled homicidal tendencies; Sherry, who seems to weirdly, quickly accept the fact that her sister has been kidnapped; and that her own life has a new path. Yet even with that social blurriness, Brandon manages to create a cast of sympathetic characters who wallow in their malformed lives, leaving us feeling better about our own, yet comfortable with theirs. This town of misfits clings to your clothing as you pass through, leaving you with the feeling that you had wandered into their lives at the worst possible moments – their most vulnerable, their weakest, the craziest points in their lives. And even in light of their weirdness, there is always a place for redemption and renewal – even if it comes from the most unlikely of sources. Not to mention that the whole thing has a crazed, edgy hilarity that I found particularly appealing – hence it comes in at Number Ten for 2010.
*One other note: this was published by McSweeney’s, so the hardcover is totally awesome looking. No dust jacket, different colors for different editions – these guys are the ones that will keep books looking interesting for the purists among us. (See also last year’s faux fur-covered The Wild Things by Dave Eggers.)
#9 on the 2010 Catapult Notable List.