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Eureka: A Novel Paperback – March 24, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Spurred on by the sight of a toy he never received as a child, a restless, aging Eureka, Kans., insurance executive relives his youth with disastrous (and hilarious) results in the 17th novel by Lehrer, prolific writer and PBS NewsHour anchor. Otis Halstead, 59, married father of one, is in the clutches of a midlife crisis spending spree; he dismisses his nagging wife's pleas that he see a therapist and continues buying items he's always dreamed of owning: a miniature fire truck (now a collector's item that goes for $12,000), a BB gun, a football helmet and an antique red Cushman motor scooter. The suicide of disillusioned co-worker Pete Wetmore (who left behind a telling note) provides the impetus for Otis to mount the scooter and leave town. But a steady string of bad luck finds a hospitalized Otis back in Eureka faking a coma to buy time for some heavy, overdue retrospection and one final decision. Calamity gives way to poignancy in this consistently fun story buoyed by an endearing protagonist readers will cheer for. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Earnest, honest lifelong Kansan Otis Halstead is plodding toward his sixtieth birthday when he impulsively spends $12,000 for a cast-iron toy fire truck he didn't get for Christmas at age five. In short order, he also buys a genuine Red Ryder BB rifle, a Kansas City Chiefs football helmet, and a 1952 Cushman motor scooter. Insurance company CEOs in small-town Kansas simply don't do such things, so his earnest, honest Kansan wife sends him to a psychiatrist. Soon after, he loads the toy fire truck and the BB rifle onto the Cushman, dons his helmet, and heads west. He tells people he meets on the road his name is "Buck." For regular readers of newsman Lehrer's surprisingly extensive oeuvre, a new book is a welcome event; his seemingly artless but actually sly, winsome, and crafty stories always celebrate the ordinary, confront some elemental issue of being human, offer bittersweet elegies for a past that seems better than the present, and give us characters whose essential decency stays with the reader long after the book begins to gather dust on the shelf. Eureka does all of those things. In fact, it may be Lehrer's best novel yet. Gaughan, Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812975529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812975529
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,752,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Eureka is simply another FUN read from Jim Lehrer.
Donald R. Fraser
The writing is clunky (I guess it's true that publishing houses have done away with editors), the characters are uninspiring, and the plotting is weak.
Mark Johnston
I laughed out loud and cried silently throughout this book.
Maryanne Friend

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Otis Halstead, a quiet, competent, civic-minded CEO of a Kansas casualty and life insurance company in Eureka, Kansas, is a contentedly married father of a college-age daughter. Just three weeks short of his 60th birthday, he is visiting an antiques toy show when he is suddenly seized by a desire to pay $12,500 for a mint condition toy fire engine exactly like the one he didn't get for his fifth Christmas.

Then, in a catalog on memorabilia, he spots a Red Ryder BB rifle complete with official BBs in its original carton. As soon as it arrives via FedEx Express, he hastily erects a target in the backyard and starts spending his free time pinging away at paper targets until he becomes a crack shot.

Next is an authentic Kansas City Chiefs football helmet that he begins to wear in public because it covers his bald head, making him look younger. By now his wife and friends are becoming concerned about his behavior, and when he disappears one Saturday and returns late that night towing a 1952 Cushman motor scooter on a trailer, that is when they insist he seek professional help. Otis reluctantly agrees to confer with Bob Gilroy, his best friend and a psychologist at a famed Eureka mental health clinic. Bob suggests that he talk to a specialist in "aging male syndrome," but Otis observes that Dr. Tonganoxie is even stranger than he is and decides that the only way to cure his hunger for change is to run away from home.

And so it is that we accompany Otis aboard his red 1952 Cushman motor scooter on his own, within-the-speed-limit version of Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD. Jack Kerouac he is not --- there are no pot parties or peeing off the back of freight cars in Otis's journey to adventure. He does not awake after any orgies or with strange women in his bed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peter P. Scholes on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
For Otis Halstead it's an antique toy fire truck, a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, a Kansas City Chief's regulation NFL helmet and a 1952 Cushman Pacemaker motor scooter...and a yearning to escape the responsibilities of adulthood. For me, it's a collection of handsigned studio photos of the cowboy stars I grew up with on the black and white screen, also a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, a Lone Ranger lunch box, a 1949 Ford pick-up truck and a sailboat in which to sail into the sunset. The difference is, Otis acts on his desire to shed the trappings of approaching senior citizen status while I, like probably most, refuse to take that risk. But the very story line, like William Least Heatmoon's, Blue Highways of two decades ago shows man has maintained his yearning to escape, if only temporarily. This book is for the dreamer in all of us.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Donelson on February 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jim Lehrer's Otis Halstead suffers the midlife crisis many of us are expecting. The difference is, he acts out all the impulses most of us suppress, which makes this fun for those who live vicariously through their reading. Full disclosure: I bought my bb gun when I turned 50.

The quiet, prosperous life of a Kansas insurance executive isn't particularly scintillating. Otis breaks away from the humdrum sometime before his 60th birthday when he dons his KC Chiefs football helmet and putters off into the sunset on his motor scooter with his trusty bb gun strapped to the seat.

His adventures and mis-adventures make for a good rainy Sunday afternoon read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Maryanne Friend on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A wonderful book that tells the story of a middle age marriage as experienced by the man (for a change!). Otis Halstead has always played by the book. He has followed all of the rules of family and business, and, yet, something is missing. Could that missing piece be the red 1952 Cushman Pacemaker that he wanted when he was 10? The purchase of the scooter changes his life forever, but only after many and varied adventures that involve people he would never have met had he stayed in his "real" life. I laughed out loud and cried silently throughout this book. It is full of humor and grace and a message for one and all.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By not a rockstar on January 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I like Jim Lehrer and I wanted to enjoy this book.

I've tried hard, and I cannot finish this book without feeling like I am betraying some kind of trust if I cheer for the protagonist, Otis.

The story does have a charming lilt, but there is an unavoidable pathetic thread that runs through this story of one man's selfish desires to have the things of his childhood. These run the gamut from mistreatment of his wife's faithfulness to the death of a person who tried to save his life.

None of these things seem to phase Otis in his quest for self-discovery.

Perhaps there is a feel-good resolution in the final chapters. I simply don't want to run the risk to find out.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Neil Fitzgerald on December 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I like Jim Lehrer, and liked him even better after I heard him interviewed on public radio about this novel. It had such a splendid premise, I took the trouble to get hold of an advanced reading copy. Unfortunately, nothing much was done with the idea. The story reads---as Gene Fowler used to say---like its author went to bed and left the keyboard running. Many of the observations are also quite trite, and no real point is made from the adventures of a middle aged man finally trying to get the things he's always wanted. Like I say, Lehrer should keep to what he does best, and not just publish bad fiction because he can because of his reputation.
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