Sunset Over Chocolate Mountains

Susan Elderkin, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $24 (192p) ISBN 978-0-87113-808-8
The Arizona desert is the unlikely but stunning setting for this imaginative first novel, the beguiling and unsettling tale of an obese Englishman, a young girl, a Slovakian shoemaker and an ice cream man. Uprooting himself from dreary England when his doting mother dies, 34-year-old Theobald Moon moves to a mobile home on a one-acre plot in the desert outside Tucson, where he plans to enjoy the sun, immerse himself in New Age philosophy and yoga, plant a cactus garden and eat to his heart's content. Reminiscent of John Kennedy Toole's hero Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces, Moon is both charming and disgusting, a large man with a sweet disposition and an uncommon interest in his bodily functions. A no-nonsense cowboy named Jersey befriends Theo, teaching him to live in and respect the desert. But just as Theo is beginning to acclimate himself, a young Slovakian shoemaker and her lover arrive in an ice cream truck and take up residence nearby. Four years later, Theo is still living in the desert, the shoemaker and her lover are gone, and Theo has a daughter, four-year-old Josephine. The mystery of Josephine's origins is revealed in flashbacks over nearly a decade as she grows up, with points of view alternating between Theo and Josephine. British author Elderkin has crafted a complex, heartbreaking tale, entwining the lives of quirky characters in an improbable but compelling narrative illustrating the agonizing potential of love to cause more pain then pleasure. The reader occasionally feels distanced from the action, and an abrupt, unnerving ending falls short, but this is a promising debut. Foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-1-84115-200-4
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8021-3799-9
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-8021-9808-2
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