Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe?
Brock Clarke. Algonquin, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61620-821-9
Clarke (The Price of a Haircut) crafts a deeply quirky narrative about a middle-aged pellet stove blogger and the wacky adventures he finds. After his mother, Nola, author of a bestselling book on theologian John Calvin, dies in an accident, Calvin Bledsoe, who spends his days writing about pellet stoves, becomes restless and isn’t quite sure what to do next.Then Calvin’s shifty yet charming aunt Beatrice surprises him with a passport and insists he accompany her on her travels, and the not-too-dynamic duo leave Maine and head to Europe. Once there, they get into inventive trouble—purchasing gerbil porn, stealing everything not nailed down, and getting kidnapped—up and down the continent, all windingly leading to the true reason that Beatrice has brought Calvin on the trip. At times the freewheeling plot veers into confusing territory, and the weird nicknames and freakishly horrible events that plague the title character go overboard. Still, Clarke keeps it all grounded with standout prose. Fans of Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt and John Irving’s The World According to Garp will delight in this story of a modern-day traveler. As the title character opines, “The world is remarkable, and we are grateful to be given a chance to live in it.” Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman, Peters Fraser + Dunlop. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2019