cover image Man Who Owned Versailles

Man Who Owned Versailles

Bret Lott. Viking Books, $16.95 (231pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81582-1

Snaring the reader in the very first sentence with the narrator's distinctive, totally credible voice, Lott has written a gripping novel about ordinary people that rings true with an uncommon resonance. After his wife, Paige, miscarries their first baby, Rick Wheeler blames himself for the disaster and stops talking to her. He carves out for himself, away from her, an increasingly separate domain, of which the emblem is Vermont (he claims it ""for myself,'' because Paige has never been there). Paige leaves him, and now he's doubly bereft. For a time he finds solace by throwing himself into his job as a soda pop salesman with Northampton, Mass., as his base. But it isn't enough. In the end, Rick learns a crucial lesson from a deer-hunting plumber named Lonny and begins to put his life back together. One of the best things about this affecting first novel is its strong regional pungency. Lott's bits of country are the parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont threaded together by Interstate Highway 91 and the Merritt Parkway, a territory not often explored in serious fiction. (June 17)