cover image Numb


Sean Ferrell, Harper Perennial, $13.99 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-194650-9

In Ferrell's offbeat debut, an amnesiac joins a Texas circus where his inability to feel pain makes him a big-top hit and earns him the name Numb. After a haunting experience wrestling a lion, Numb and his best friend, Mal, give up the circus for life in New York, where they live in a crappy hotel and make a living as a lowrent one-man freak show. When Numb lands a talent agent and begins to move up through the layers of celebrity, he leaves Mal behind for a cast of characters including a blind artist girlfriend and bad news model Emilia. But in Numb's world, nothing hurts much at all, so Mal comes back and predictably turns things upside down, despite the men's bond being difficult to comprehend. There are captivating moments and passages, but details like Numb's rise to recognized-on-the-street fame aren't sufficiently explained and require a hefty suspension of disbelief. Though some of the storytelling nuts and bolts are missing, the book has a lot of heart. (Aug.)