40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2004
A heartbreaking but ultimately triumphant work of incredible genius. There were times, while reading this book that I could simply not bear to go any further. I was filled with rage at the writer who could allow his own 'son', so to speak, be made to endure such incredible cruelty and violence. I guess I just went on because it would have felt like not completing the book would have been almost like abandoning this child. Edgar is brave, lovable, loyal and heroic without having the slightest clue that he is anything of the sort. Read this book. It's one of those where you can't wait to find out what happens at the end, while simultaneously rationing your reading so the book doesn't end too soon. This is definitely a book you will find yourself recommending to everyone you know who reads at all - a book that has the ability to make you cry and laugh out loud often on the same page.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2001
As I write my review of The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint on November 16th., its Amazon.com sales rank is 6,393. Should you enter a large bookstore you won't find it on the "hot picks" shelf or in the "best sellers" section either. The reasons that so many great books don't surface to the top are many and why so many gifted authors have day jobs as well. It is a shame that literary accomplishments like The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall don't get the mass recognition they deserve because the marketing wasn't there or the promotional process was limited or the author had no previous best sellers. This is a wonderful and unforgettable book about a wonderful and unforgettable character. From the moment in the early pages when young Edgar is run over by the mailman, as event after event in Edgar's miraculous life unfolds and through to the closing chapters, you are in for a an inspiring reading experience that will at different times leave you utterly joyous, emotional, in disbelief, and everywhere in between. Udall's writing style is simple yet his words on paper are like colors on a canvas, he is a master storyteller. The only disappointing moment is in the closing pages when the last words are read because one wishes there had been another 400 pages more to enjoy.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
This is one of those novels that once started, I could not put down. Edgar's story over the eight years that comprise the subject for this novel is fascinating, horrifying, engrossing, and oh, so human. It's certainly one of the most enjoyable books I've read in recent years, and for that reason alone I would recommend it. Yes, the style and tone are reminiscent of John Irving, which in term places Udall squarely in the storytelling tradition of Charles Dickens. The difficult-journey-with-tribulations-but-with-hope-and-human-virtues-always-maintained is certainly what we've got with Edgar Mint, starting with the very first sentence regarding how the mailman ran over his head. Udall writes with wit and an overall tinge of black humor, and right up until the very end of the book, Edgar's journey, while sometimes fantastic and unlikely, is certainly a fascinating one.
My only quarrel with Udall (and the reason for my awarding the book four stars instead of five) has to do with the ending. I don't want to include any spoilers, but suffice it to say that the final chapter of the book includes a layer of warm-and-cloying that for my taste was laid on just a bit too thickly. Are we to believe that in a world in which schoolboys torture one another while the responsible adults sit by obliviously, where Native Americans drink themselves to death while regarding their own offspring with complete indifference, where people are forced to resort to the most horrifying crimes in order to ensure their own survival, suddenly life can transform into a never-ending succession of *Saturday Evening Post* covers? This kind of naively moralistic *telos* certainly worked for Dickens, but that was in a different time and literary context. At the conclusion of the book I felt warm and fuzzy and happy for Edgar, but the little voice inside me was protesting that in the context of 2001 this ending veritably screamed �made for Hollywood,� and I found this disappointing.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2001
(...)Should you enter a large bookstore you won't find it on the "hot picks" shelf or in the "best sellers" section either. The reasons that so many great books don't surface to the top are many and why so many gifted authors have day jobs as well. It is a shame that literary accomplishments like The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall don't get the mass recognition they deserve because the marketing wasn't there or the promotional process was limited or the author had no previous best sellers. This is a wonderful and unforgettable book about a wonderful and unforgettable character. From the moment in the early pages when young Edgar is run over by the mailman, as event after event in Edgar's miraculous life unfolds and through to the closing chapters, you are in for a an inspiring reading experience that will at different times leave you utterly joyous, emotional, in disbelief, and everywhere in between. Udall's writing style is simple yet his words on paper are like colors on a canvas, he is a master storyteller. The only disappointing moment is in the closing pages when the last words are read because one wishes there had been another 400 pages more to enjoy.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2002
Readers with a saccharin sentimentality for childhood may find this book depressing, if not downright disturbing. But I suspect many of those who do will have failed to come to grips with the disappointments in their own life. Edgar Mint is no Forrest Gump, but the remarkable life story of Brady Udall's all but abandoned half-breed Apache should renew your faith in the resiliency of the human spirit.
Udall's quirky characters live on the dark side, but this only accentuates the faint but persistent light that glows within the unlikely but lovable main character Edgar Presley Mint. Like a fragile desert flower, Edgar musters the strength to survive the spartan and often hostile conditions of his childhood by taking nourishment from friendships. Guarded but gifted, Edgar gives more love than he gets. By bending not breaking, Edgar displays a resiliency rewarded by an unyielding belief that all will end well. When it does, the surprise ending comes as little surprise (and with little fanfare) but as a well-earned reward.
Udall's fine first novel shows the deft hand and gifted craftsmanship of a writer who honed his skills on the short story. Each poignant vignette reveals an attention to detail that rewards the reader with insights not only into the characters but the human condition itself. Frequent comparisons to Dickens and Irving suggest most readers see something more akin to literature in Udall's work than what's evident in most contemporary fiction. Udall's gifted first novel compares favourably with Pulitzer Prize-winning work like John Kennedy O'Toole's masterpiece A Confederacy of Dunces. Let's hope the success of his first novel makes it possible for him to give us more.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2004
Edgar Mint's childhood mission is locating the mailman who ran over his head as a child. He wants to assure him that he's OK.
This mission is the focus of Brady Udall's The Miracle of Edgar Mint. The author's inspiration to write Edgar's story developed from something much less painful than having his head run over, although possibly equally as dramatic.
The peculiar story that gave Udall the framework to work was sparked when his then girlfriend, now wife, revealed she was dating another man. She told him about the other man and how as a child he'd been run over by a mailman. Udall actively sought this man out.
"He thought I was going to beat him up," Udall says.
But he was too interested in his history to hurt him. The other man's story was the inspiration for Edgar's.
The Miracle of Edgar Mint is Udall's first novel, although he has written many short stories.
"The hard part is getting the confidence and figuring it out." Udall says. "It's a huge investment of time and energy. This book took three and a half years."
That time was spent shaping and perfecting the story of a young boy facing hardships that most would find daunting, yet he perseveres. Run over at 7, Edgar spends months in a hospital until he's sent to live with an uncle he's never met on an Indian reservation and goes to a school where he's tormented daily by classmates. Edgar manages to flee the school to the home of a Mormon family willing to take him in, but his problems continue.
Udall wrote the story in first and third person in part because Edgar's story is so unusual and also because it's a grown Edgar telling us the story of his childhood.
"Edgar is a character in his own story," Udall says. "He's aware he's a character in his own story."
This makes the jumps between reading Edgar's story from his own point of view or from an outside narrator as logical as the jumps between the settings of Edgar's life.
Although some of the locations in The Miracle of Edgar Mint were fictional, others, such as Edgar's school, were real places near where Udall grew up in Arizona. With so many settings for Edgar's experiences, Udall could have done extensive research to get each detail right. Although this is what he started to do, eventually he stopped researching at all.
"Imagination with a few good details is enough, with the right attitude," Udall says. "I like to have the freedom to make it the way I want."
In The Miracle of Edgar Mint, Udall let his imagination run rampant.
"I grew up in a big stable Mormon family, the polar opposite of what Edgar grew up with," he says.
Edgar experiences more turmoil in 10 years than most people do in a lifetime. Still, Udall manages to show the humorous side of otherwise depressing circumstances.
An admirer of the writing of Mark Twain, Udall sees writing comedy as an ultimate achievement.
"It's not easy to take depressing, bleak writing and inject it with humor," he says.
Not easy, perhaps, but that's exactly what he does. For instance, while recovering at the hospital, Edgar is surrounded by people in hopeless situations. And while sad, when he turns to a urinal puck for comfort, there's something darkly comedic about his deodorizing security blanket.
Lightening the mood in what could be a dark story is also Edgar's unabashed motivation to live. As the character himself says in reference to himself and the people he befriends during his hospital stay, "We were broken and afflicted and maybe ... we could make ourselves whole again."
Edgar's mission to locate the mailman from his past seems to be the key to making himself whole. Udall tried to reflect in Edgar the motivation he saw in kids from troubled backgrounds.
"I tried to place myself as a child." Udall says. "I've talked to lots of children. They're not aware that there's an alternative. They don't believe they have a choice."
Unaware, perhaps, that he can do anything but carry on, Edgar keeps going, trying to make himself whole. In so doing, his story becomes an endearing one of survival.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2003
Much is made of this book's wonderful first paragraph. But more should be said about its dark, laugh-out-loud first chapter. Populated with interesting characters placed in vibrant settings, Edgar Mint is the best book I read this year. Brady Udall writes with simple, elegant, often hilarious prose that allows his story and people to emerge, making this that rare effort that is both thoughtfully literary and highly readable.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2001
This is the kind of book Irving USED to write. It's touching, funny, tender, shattering and at the most unexpected moments, beautiful. I still haven't caught my breath after reading it. You will never meet another character like Edgar, I promise you, and you will never regret meeting him, though he will certainly break your heart.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2007
This sharply funny, often deeply tragic novel is narrated by a remarkable young man: Edgar Presley Mint whose extraordinary tumultuous life summons up the epic novels of Dickens. Born on an Arizona reservation to an alcoholic Apache girl and her cowardly white cowboy wanna-be boyfriend, Edgar's life is already on a course for disaster. At the age of seven, the course of Edgar's life is changed when the mailman's jeep accidentally runs over his head, leaving Edgar on the verge of death. But his miraculous survival propels Edgar on a journey that will not end for almost thirteen years. Abandoned by his alcoholic mother, without family and friends, Edgar slowly recovers in the hospital. As he regains his strength, Edgar is befriended by his fellow patients, Ray, an alcoholic mourning the death of his wife and sons and Jeffrey, a drug addict. But eventually Edgar becomes healthy enough that he must leave the hospital. Shunted to a boarding school for delinquent Indians, Edgar is thrust into a Darwinian environment where the biggest and the strongest kids torture the weaker children. Edgar becomes the favorite victim of Nelson, a hulking teenager who runs a mini-empire of thugs who rob and torment other kids on Nelson's whim. Edgar survives only through his wits and quickness, becoming Nelson's most successful thief to forestall torments. Eventually, Edgar escapes to a Mormon foster home which holds new terrors and torments. Through all his experiences, Edgar retains an innocence and strength of character that amazes the reader. His matter-of-fact accounts of even the most horrible events are touching.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2002
This is a cross-cultural celebration of life. There were times when I felt like I could not possibly bare another ill to befall the young Apache halfblood Edgar Presley Mint - "Let me off this train! It's speeding right into that oncoming speeding train!" But, as George Michael says: "You gotta have Faith!" And young Edgar has several faiths. Despite The Administration, he learns Native American spirituality at the BIA Boarding School, spends time in the Mormon community, and then goes off to play Bingo with Roman Catholics.
Author Brady Udall (I looked at his biography on edgarmint.com - it doesn't have a family tree, but I bet, from the sensibilities and sensitivities and of this book that he's related to Mo) knows whereof he speaks, exhibiting empathy and understanding of Native American (is Vincent DeLaine created in the image of Vine DeLoria?) and environmental issues, and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints, but then the reader suddenly stumbles upon this unexplained paragraph: "At eighteen Edgar got his driver's license so he could prowl the hilly byways of the town in a jacked-up orange Chevette he bought from (Roman Catholic) Father Grinev's son-in-law..." Say, WHAT? Someone should contact Father Andrew Greeley's Bishop Blackwood Ryan, or Gary Wills, to look into this. ;-)
Despite his travails, Edgar Mint not only survives, he triumphs. Udall rivals Frank Capra in the "feel-good" department. Experience this: "How can I explain the wondrousness of walking barefoot across carpet for the first time? Right then I didn't care about getting my own bicycle or free ice cream. Standing on that carpet in my new pajamas with the smell of waffles in the air - what else could I possibly need?"