Letourneau's Used Auto Parts

Carolyn Chute, Author Ticknor & Fields $16.45 (244p) ISBN 978-0-89919-500-1
Any doubts that Chute could not follow her remarkable debut novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine with another winner will be vanquished by this assured, complex and memorable tale, told in bold, forceful prose. We are back in Egypt and in the adjacent, ironically named Miracle City, a squalid jumble of unpainted shacks and trailers that is nonetheless a welcome haven to the residents of this poverty-stricken community. The area's most important citizen is the eponymous Big Lucien Letourneau, who runs the auto salvage junkyard at which most of the men work. It's a brutal life, and in bad times Lucien can't afford to pay his men. But if he sometimes lacks money, Big Lucien never lacks compassion. He is a one-man welfare system, sheltering the destitute, homeless and elderly; some of his ex-wives and many of his children, in and out of wedlock; and a churning population of cats. For a long time we see Big Lucien only obliquely and he assumes almost mythic dimensions before we finally meet him, late in the novel, when Chute's bleakly comic message about the enobling power of compassion becomes clear. Meanwhile we become involved with the other, beautifully developed characters., The recipients of Big Lucien's ``heart of gold'' are desperately poor, ignorant, unwashed and unkempt, sexually promiscuous, violent when drunkyet Chute gives them humanity and dignity. Her compassion for people condemned to deadend lives infuses this powerful novel with universal meaning. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
Paperback - 244 pages - 978-0-15-600189-2
Paperback - 244 pages - 978-0-06-097225-7
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-0613-6
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