cover image The Red-Headed Pilgrim

The Red-Headed Pilgrim

Kevin Maloney. Two Dollar Radio, $18.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-953387-28-8

A man has a midlife crisis in Maloney’s hilarious work of autofiction (after Cult of Loretta). The protagonist, also named Kevin Maloney, is a red-haired web developer who, in 2019, amid an emotional breakdown, tries to take stock of his accomplishments. He begins with his childhood in Beaverton, Ore., where he describes being “raised in front of the television, eating McDonald’s every day, mainlining high fructose corn syrup,” and spending his school years searching for the perfect girl and coping with suicidal thoughts by writing death poetry. A supportive art teacher turns him on to the bleak and playful work of Richard Brautigan, and he takes to wearing a cape to class (“Nobody was going to have sex with me anyway,” he explains). Psychedelic experimentation occupies his university days and throughout his restless, adventurous postcollege years in Vermont, where a torrid love affair brings hope. The author maintains a sharp wit and a knack for bringing zany flare to everyday details in his protagonist’s awkward quest to build a life, and the author’s willingness to get laughs at his narrator-doppelgänger’s expense makes for a good use of the form. This funny and openhearted romp will have readers laughing and reflecting on their own misadventures and foibles. (Jan.)