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The Oxygen Man Hardcover – June 1, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: MacMurray & Beck; 1ST edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878448854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878448859
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,415,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With Merle Haggard playing in the background and bottles of beer accumulating in the fore, Daze and Ned, sister and brother, live restlessly and hopelessly in the small town of Indianola, Mississippi. The sharp and ragged edges separating the races and classes there are glaringly obvious. Ned, who drives through the fog-spooked back roads of Sunflower County by night, checks the oxygen levels in Mack Bell's catfish ponds. The rest of Mack's employees are black, but Ned perceives a vast difference in the ways he and Mack are white: "the difference had a lot to do with the fat content of the foods they'd grown up eating, the odor of the toilet bowls they'd grown up using, the number of evenings their daddies had spent at home, the number of evenings their mommas stayed gone." A deliberately severed injector line ruins one of Mack's ponds, costing him money and making him suspicious of the three oppressed black men he employs. Long-suffering, quiet Daze, meanwhile, doesn't flourish in the close quarters she shares with her brother, as their intimacy reveals its dark, manipulative side. Set in 1996, with frequent, lengthy flashbacks to the early '70s, when Daze and Ned were in high school, Yarbrough's bleak and yet extremely tender first novel explores the sad origins of their situation and exposes the sordid complications of small-town small-mindedness. Violence and racism claw their way into nearly every scene, and the language used by Yarbrough's characters can be disturbing and offensive, if on the mark. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Ned and his sister, Daze, live together in their parents' house with the scars of the past. First novelist Yarbrough reveals the source of their unfulfilled lives by looking back on their high school years, a time when their dysfunctional and often absent parents stood in the way of a normal home life and the chance to fit in at school. In Ned's case, his spinelessness and desperate anger caused him to commit violent acts he will never forget. Daze is unable to forgive him, and brother and sister live in the same house almost without interacting. Now, 20 years later, they attempt to reconcile with the past and with each other. Yarbrough cleverly and clearly illustrates life unfolding in a small Mississippi town through subtle references to race relations and town politics as well as detailed description of the natural surroundings. His intimate descriptions of his characters' lives make them real. Highly recommended.AJudith Ann Akalaitis, Supreme Court of Illinois Lib., Chicago
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "bethsd2" on July 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Once I started reading this book I had a hard time putting it down. The plot is somewhat typical of backwater Mississippi characters ("white trash" trying to figure life out....usually getting caught up in violence and circumstance as they work it all out) - the saving grace, however, is yarbrough's skill with the written word. Something about the way he writes makes you feel as if you are in each scene - this facet is hard to come by in books which at first look like sheets of paper, bound between two thicker sheets of paper. What they really are, however, are stories harboring struggle after struggle but always maintaining a strand of hope that the tortured protagonist(s) will find a way to make their lives easier. If you are looking for a good end of summer read, this is one of the best. It is quick but is not fluff - you are definitely left thinking and trying to figure out when it was Ned started living as a "yes man" and why Daisy had such a hard time forgiving her brother.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. T. Guzman on May 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Life in Indianola, Mississippi, has some rough edges. In this earthy novel of Ned Rose and his sister Daze, the reader learns what it's like to grow up as a poor white in a state which is both class and color conscious. Ned works as an oxygen man who checks the oxygen level in the catfish ponds of Mack Bell, while his sister is employed as a bartender at the Beer Smith Lounge. There are glimpses of the sibling's often-absent, beer-in-hand parents, Ned's macho high school football buddies, and the gritty, more well-to-do employers of the common black and white folks.
This is an unsettling story which gets down and dirty right from the start. It's not a pleasant book nor one for the lighthearted. There's a strange uneasiness about it. You'll hope for the best as you read, all the while expecting the worst. The very real characters are not people you'd like to know. But the author, in a surprisingly good first novel, gets you deeply involved in their feelings of scorn. If you like the creepy characters in Pete Dexter's The Paper Boy, Ruth Hamilton's The Book of Ruth, or James Dickey's Deliverance, you'll like this book. The chapters are short and interesting. It's a book that's easy to read in short spurts, pick up and put down at any time, and the appeal is always there.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel E. Wickett on January 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
In Sunflower County, Mississippi, Steve Yarbrough has delivered a wonderful setting for his first novel, Oxygen Man. The characters are diverse, and richly drawn. The countryside is beautifully described. The economic situation is fully understood because of his descriptive writing, though he doesn't go into any specifics. As you delve further into the book, Mr. Yarbrough goes back and forth from 1972 to 1996. Through the two different periods, looked at through a single generation, you get a feel for the general community. In this community, he has also given us the potential for his own Yoknapatowpha County. Just what every "southern" writer prays for, and hopes to never hear; the comparison to Faulkner.
There are numerous stories to tell in Sunflower County and while a couple are told in great detail, specifically the stories of Ned Rose and his sister Daisy, there are many others that we are given just enough of to hope that Mr. Yarbrough plumbs the area again. There are the stories of the cotton farmers turned catfish farmers: the Bells, Salters, and Morellis; the story of the Gautreaux family, bankers from generation to generation. There are also Beer Smith, owner of the lounge Daisy works at as well as an entire population of slaves turned indentured servants living on the Bell property (leading the reader to assume there were such populations on the Salter and Morelli property as well). All of these stories would be similar in one nature, they would be stories about both our destiny due to fate, as well as our futures stemming from decisions made.
The story we are given by Mr. Yarbrough in this effort is mainly that of Ned and Daisy Rose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The Oxygen Man is quite simply a wonderful novel. The writing is clear, vibrant, and imbued with the emotions of the story -- it carries the story like music carries lyrics. The characters are real, empathetic (even the worst of them), fallable and adeptly rendered. And it reminds us that the struggles of being Southern (and human) are more complex than we think, that it is hard to escape the life you were born into, and even harder to escape the life you've lived, but the struggle is wortwhile, and that a world seeming to lack light or love and contain only danger, can really have those things. A book anyone who cares about fiction should read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful surprise this book was! Something about the characters and their intricate yet unfulfilling lives is so compelling. I cared about Daze and Ned, but was never quite sure as to what was driving them. Yet Yarbrough's story is so well woven, things come together in a startling, yet perfectly plausible fashion toward the end. And what an ending! Very round, completely developed characters, expertly crafted. The sense of setting is also superb, with central Mississippi becoming a character in itself. I am excited to have come across this novel, and am sad that it's over.
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