A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
This book grabs the reader from the beginning, making one wonder “how did this person get into this situation”? And a strange situation it is. The prologue has Wilbur falling down a well in a dress and continues with flashbacks of his life leading up to that point.
Set in the American Old West of the 1800’s, we follow Wilbur through his beginnings on a covered wagon through his adventures in a circus, a bordello, bank robberies, with a revivalist preacher and assorted other places. Wilbur has a few problems, such as a fear of cows and a tendency to fall into ‘fits’, which plague him throughout his life. “I wasn’t allowed to play much in case I got too excited. Instead I had to help Ma with the chores, as there’d be no danger of getting excited doing those.”
There was a subplot concerning a mummy that made me very uncomfortable and I was forced to skip pages to avoid it, though it wasn‘t used for a horror effect. A less wimpy person would not have been disturbed by it and responded to the poignancy as intended. I would’ve enjoyed the book a lot more without that, as Wilbur is quite likable and remains genial regardless of what happens to him, he never grows bitter or nasty. The novel is written from his viewpoint in a folksy style with subtle humor. From the cover blurbs, I was worried that there would be too much exaggeration of events, when actually, they were a string of coincidences that were entirely in the realm of possibility, in the manner of T. Coraghessan Boyle.
While this isn’t the sort of novel I usually read, it was nice reading a Western without all the macho posturing and focusing on an eccentric, sensitive hero. If you like well written and quirky stories, then may I introduce you to Wilbur McCrum?
Picador 2009 359 pp. ISBN 978-0-330-46508-3
Jackie watched a lot of Westerns as a child and often clumped through the house in cowboy boots and hat, holster and toy guns.But never found any cows in suburbia to round up.