Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Suddenly I Am Hit By a Truck


I just finished Chuck Klosterman's debut novel, Downtown Owl, and am about as poleaxed as can be. For the first 90% of the novel, Klosterman takes us through the lives of three primary characters, residents of the small-town Owl, ND. There's the high school's back-up quarterback, Mitch; newly arrived schoolteacher Julia; and the elderly Mitch. In rotating chapters named by the date they take place on (the book is set in the early 80s), Klosterman takes us through the end of summer up to the end of February. Nothing earth-shattering happens, but we get to know these three, as well as assorted hangers-on, well, and come to look forward to the end of the school year finale that the book's structure would lead us to expect.

But then Kllosterman sets a freak blizzard loose on his characters. And within the space of maybe 10 pages, he's killed Mitch and Julia (Mitch is caught in an apple orchard and freezes to death, while Julia pulls over in her car and is eventually poisoned by carbon monoxide), with only the dogged Mitch to survive (albeit barely; he nearly freezes to death after getting caught not 50 yards from his house).

And then the novel ends. I love Klosterman's writing, and he's engaging throughout, doing a fine job of creating believeable characters and making us care about them. But I have to cop to just not getting that ending. I thought my copy was missing pages.

Maybe it was.

Until Whenever

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