Elizabeth McCracken, Author . Dial $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-31837-2

Any doubts that McCracken could not equal the inventiveness, wit and quirky imagination of her first novel, The Giant's House, will be dispelled by this relentlessly eventful, rollickingly funny and heartwarming narrative. Her story about a pair of vaudeville comedians explores a symbiotic relationship in vigorous, expressive prose. Narrator Mose Sharp relates his life from childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, to old age in Hollywood in a distinctive, mordantly humorous voice. Pierced with remorse at the accidental death of his beloved sister, Hattie, 16-year-old Mose runs away from his gentle father and five remaining sisters to join the vaudeville circuit that he and Hattie had dreamed about. Later, down on his luck, he's taken under the wing of a plump comic, Rocky Carter, and they go on to become the famous team of Carter and Sharp. Though Mose is cast as a stern professor, and Rocky as the fat and hapless fall guy, in real life Rocky takes all the credit and a larger share of their income, and Mose is endlessly forgiving of Rocky's self-destructive behavior. In depicting the mingled love and resentment felt by both men, McCracken plumbs the soul of a relationship. She also chronicles the dying years of vaudeville with a tolerant eye for its desperate exuberance, and, when Carter and Sharp move on to Hollywood, the slaphappy 1940s movie industry. As years pass, Mose finds a wife, fathers children and grows rich, but his troubled partnership with Rocky remains the core of his existence. In its delicate balance of black humor, irony and pathos, this novel is as exhilarating as the waters of Niagara, its flow mimicking the tumultuous rush of time. Agent, Henry Dunow. (On-sale: Aug. 7)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-385-33648-2
Hardcover - 490 pages - 978-1-58724-155-0
Open Ebook - 262 pages - 978-0-440-33391-3
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