MODERN RANCH LIVING

Mark Poirier, Author . Miramax $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4013-0042-5

Short story writer and novelist Poirier (Naked Pueblo ; Goats ; etc.) is making a name for himself as a chronicler of the surreal everyday life of the suburban Southwest. In his panoramic, essentially plotless second novel, he captures the aimless, air-conditioner-blasted, pop-culture-saturated nature of existence in Tucson, Ariz. During the summer of 2001, Kendra Lumm and Merv Hunter have nothing in common except proximity. She's a teenaged fitness fanatic, he's the 30-year-old manager of a Splash World, and they both live with their parents in Rancho Sin Vacas, a sprawling gated community in the desert outside Tucson, where growth occurs "at the rate of an acre an hour." Kendra is seeing an anger management therapist, and Merv is trying, halfheartedly, to determine whether he'll always be a loser who lives with his sleepwalking insomniac mother. When a Magic Marker–sniffing juvenile neighbor suddenly disappears, filling everyone with concern and foreboding, the protagonists begin to address their own problems. Kendra and Merv cross paths only occasionally, but their parallel pursuits of happiness are similarly baffled and good-natured. Kendra's strange Valley Girl–like speech patterns ("plussing as which") add a baroque touch to this deadpan expedition into a weird corner of the American psyche. Agent, Jin Auh at the Wylie Agency. 8-city author tour. (Sept.)

Forecast: Fans of George Saunders and Douglas Coupland will appreciate Poirier's similarly offbeat take on suburbia.

Reviewed on: 07/26/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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