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The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Penzler Pick, April 2000: The world of mystery has long accepted the occasional offbeat tour de force that veers into the realm of uncertain reality. Even if its author might be startled to hear it, The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living fits comfortably, I think, into the splendid list that includes John Dickson Carr's The Burning Court, Russell Greenan's It Happened in Boston, and William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel. At the same time, it is like none of those books. Imagine John Grisham crossed with Alice Hoffman and you might come closer to what's going on in these highly entertaining pages.

The story itself offers interlocking strands that come together in the person of Evers Wheeling, a preternaturally young North Carolina judge who's headed to the dogs with his eyes wide open, "waiting to hit bottom," as he puts it. But just before he makes it there, into his life comes a blonde in trouble with an outrageous (and ever-mutating) tale of a brother who needs help avoiding a jail sentence. That this brother turns out not to resemble his sister in the slightest--he's an African-American dwarf, and strong for his size--is just a small surprise in the overall scheme of things. (Here you might start trying to picture The Maltese Falcon as rewritten by Charles Portis.)

There's an elusive prize, possibly a cache of rare stamps worth millions, and a decided falling-out between an uncertain alliance of thieves; there's also a brutal murder, one that's close enough to home to put Evers Wheeling on trial for his own life. In addition to all this, there's Evers's brother, Pascal, to reckon with: he's the one with the double-wide trailer parked back in the woods, the IQ that's off the charts, the preference for staying stoned, and the one trying to help his sibling in any way he can, no matter the illegality.

The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living is enough to put Good Ole Boys back in style. But until Martin Clark writes his next book, I guess all I can do is go back and reread Michael Malone's equally memorable--and moving--Handling Sin, perhaps the best Southern novel of the past quarter-century. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Clark, a circuit court judge in Virginia, has written a sophisticated legal thriller that is closer to the drug-besotted dadaism of Tom McGuane's early novels than to John Grisham. Evers Wheeling is a judge living in the small town of Norton, N.C. His wife, Jo Miller, refuses to visit him there; she lives, instead, on a farm Evers bought her near Durham. Evers and his brother, Pascal, inherited a fortune, but Pascal dissipated his share rapidly because "you're only young once, but you can be immature forever." One hungover morning, Evers is confronted by enigmatic Ruth Esther English, a used-car saleswoman with an inexplicable peculiarity: she cries white alabaster tears ("small bright circles... like a row of marble dimes") when she offers Evers money to intervene in favor of her brother, Artis, who is up on a cocaine possession charge. Artis holds a clue that would allow Ruth Esther to locate $100,000 hidden after a robbery committed by Ruth, Artis and their late foster father. In a separate development, Evers, acting on a tip, discovers Jo Miller in flagrante with a local farmer. Egged on by Pascal's pot-smoking friends, Evers takes up with Ruth Esther and her lawyer, Pauletta Lightwren Qwai. Among Evers's less charming qualities are his bigotry and sexism, but Pauletta, a black activist, is attracted by some buried decency in the judge. As the couple lurch toward romance, Evers is mired in ever more shattering discoveries--the worst of which involves his wife and his brother. When Evers's vicious divorce trial is interrupted by violent death, Clark expertly causes Evers's own story and Ruth Esther's case to converge, delivering an enthralling mix of Southern gothic excess and legal procedure. BOMC and QPB alternate selection.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375707093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375707094
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Clark is a Virginia circuit court judge. At one time or another, his past novels have been chosen as a New York Times Notable Book, a Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year, a Bookmarks Magazine Best Book of the Year, a finalist for The Stephen Crane First Fiction Award, and a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. His last novel, The Legal Limit, was the winner of the Library of Virginia's People's Choice Award and was called "a model of how to write a literary legal thriller" by the Oregonian. Martin lives in Patrick County, Virginia, with his wife, Deana.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I admit that the title alone is what drew me to this book, but the author doesn't disappoint: THE MANY ASPECTS OF MOBILE HOME LIVING is as odd and beguiling and clever as its title promises. It's no white trash epic, but actually a weird and compelling ride with a young, spiritually lost judge of the New South and his brother, a charming rogue with his own problems. Their misadventures and romances and conversations are never less than entertaining, but Clark has more on his mind than that. He uses his characters, so strange and complicated that they seem as real as any fictional people you'll ever encounter, to explore many important themes -- success, the American Dream, race, the meaning of life -- in a subtle and yet thrillingly original way.
At the end, I got the feeling you always get from the best books, that everything the author wrote is true and that all the characters you met are off living their lives in the same fits and stalls and moments of transcendence we all experience, and if you knew them or had their phone numbers you could just call them up and talk about whatever goofy things you talk about with your real friends. The blurb on the back compares him to Hiassen, but entertaining as Hiassen is, I think Clark is a deeper and rarer bird, already more accomplished in limning real people and the things they do - if not as sharp with plot, which at times seems almost incidental. But the writing is so good it doesn't matter.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By holly santos on May 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book because a friend of mine told me about it. (She had seen it in a Book-of-the-Month Club magazine--nominated for their fiction award.) I discovered when I checked it out on Amazon that it had received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus. Then I read an excellent review in my local paper (Baltimore Sun), and saw a rave review in The NY Times. After I bought the book, I also saw that Newsweek's reviewer liked it. The bottom line: This novel had good word of mouth, a great local review, and excellent national reviews from the New York Times and Publisher's Weekly. So I bought it and loved it. This is a brilliant, funny book, part mystery, part legal thriller, part spiritual trip. It's as good as the buzz. While I realize this is not a chat room. I do take issue with one of the reviews that appears on this page, suggesting that all the good reviews come from Mr. Clark's friends. This wouldn't be possible, would it? I do not know Martin Clark, but I did feel that I should write and defend this book. It's a fine, excellent read, and I doubt that the author's remarkable success has come because he has friends at the Times and Newsweek and Publisher's Weekly, etc. So my name is Holly Santos, I'm ordering another one for a friend, and this one gets five stars.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
How many books do you run across which are thought-provoking and full of wild plots and wonderful characters? The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living has all this and more. I couldn't figure out how the author was going to tie all this toghether at the end, but he did, and the ending just left me shaking my head. You'll not find a better book out there. This one takes chances and breaks all kinds of rules, but it really works. Hope to see Evers and Pascal and Pauletta again soon.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Clark's first novel is a rollicking read, a classic Southern novel. With his artful prose and well honed vocabulary, Clark tips his hat in the direction of other fine Southern writers that have preceded him, while remaining strikingly fresh and new.
This novel takes us on a serpentine trip, both literally and figuratively, as we explore not only the North Carolina and West Virginia landscapes, but also take the occassional side trip into the inner workings of our revered legal system. Not to mention a drug laced exploration or two into the meaning of life. Clark has managed, in these short 350 pages, to conjure up and slay many of our most feared demons, from the classic disillusionment of our post-graduate times to the spiritual abyss that so many of us have adopted as our safe haven. And he has done it through the introduction of a cast of rascals and ner' do wells that tug at your heartstrings like long lost friends. While the task seems to be nearly overwhelming on its face, Clark manages to twine all of the pieces into a solid rope, leaving only one question unanswered at the surprising conclusion of this excellent first work--Where is my Ruth Esther? This is a must read!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on August 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Part legal thriller, part humor, and even a bit spiritual, "The Many Aspects..." is a very smooth and relaxing read.
Circuit court judge Evers Wheeling finds himself, his pot smoking, heavy drinking brother and friends on a cross-country journey from N.C. to Utah to retrieve a hidden treasure. The treasure comes by the way of a mystical woman who cries pearly tears, Ruth Esther English. She promises a part of the fortune to Evers if he will drop her brother's case when he appears in court before him. Prompted by a sense of the wealth and a sense of adventure, Evers agrees.
As the group sets off to retrieve the treasure they are joined by Ruth Esther's almost militant-like, black lawyer Pauletta. Some of the books funniest moments occur when the conservative, southern-bred Evers and Pauletta trade barbs.
The treasure, stolen drug money, is also found to include a mysterious letter that Ruth Esther goes to any length necessary to keep to herself. Curious about the content of the letter and the mysterious tears that Ruth Esther produces (which they believe are wish-bearing and build a shrine for) the group sets out to find the truth behind it all. In doing so and as their wishes come true, they reveal hidden and truths and feelings about themselves that they didn't even know existed.
It may seem weird, but while reading this book I was taken in by a sense of tranquility. Clark has a very calm and soothing way of writing. Instead of the sudden and abrupt plot twists and turns associated with thrillers, the "go with the flow", almost melting-like writing is like a breath of fresh air. Although containing no real edge-of-your-seat, nail biting theatrics, there is plenty of suspense and intrique to keep the reader thouroughly engrossed.
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