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The Man Who Owned Vermont Paperback – January 1, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
After his wife, Paige, miscarries their first baby, Rick Wheeler blames himself and stops talking to her. This is an affecting debut with strong regional pungency. "Snaring the reader in the very first sentence with the narrator's distinctive, totally credible voice, Lott has written a gripping novel about ordinary people that rings true with an uncommon resonance," noted PW.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The New York Times Book Review Subtle...powerful...with a profound understanding of the precarious condition called marriage.
James Atlas A powerful and poignant tale...About work and marriage and the ways we betray -- and redeem -- ourselves....Impressive.
The New York Times The Man Who Owned Vermont is a moving first novel....Bret Lott knows how ordinary people work and love...how intractable human feelings can be...and he shows us, as well, the redemptive powers of love.
Publishers Weekly Snares the reader in the very first sentence...a gripping novel that rings true with uncommon resonance....affecting.
Columbus Dispatch Fully realized and memorable....Anyone who picks up this book will be moved.
Los Angeles Times Engrossing...one of the most interesting stories of the sadness of American men.
Time Recommended Fiction A vivid example of mind and spirit grappling with oppressive fates.
Phillip Lopate author of The Rug Merchant Beautifully written, quietly thrilling, exemplary in its compassion...a stunning debut.
Barry Hannah author of Airships and Hey Jack! Bret Lott is a superb writer. The Man Who Owned Vermont has a deep and truthful message.
Josephine Humphreys author of Dreams of Sleep and Rich In Love An extraordinary book...full of surprises. Bret Lott is a talent to be reckoned with.
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This is a novel about marriages. Cal, Carla and Rose's marriages have failed due to infidelities large or small. But those rifts are peripheral. The story is about Rick Wheeler, the first person narrator and protagonist. Rick's marriage is in trouble because he flushed the toilet. I understand why he flushed that toilet, someone had too, eventually. But Rick should have talked about it first. As in many marriages, Rick's problem is his inability to talk about his feelings. Cal, Carla and Rose could not help Rick, except to remind him how much he still loved his wife. It took Lonny, who was never married, to show Rick what he had to do while hunting frightened deer. You see, Lonny is an old plumber, a fellow who knows a great deal about toilets.
Bret Lott loads this novel with mundane, descriptive details. When Rick makes a sandwich, the author tells about every item Rick takes from the refrigerator, and its color. If a metaphor, it escaped me. In the men's room, Rick unzips, Cal comes in and unzips, and then Rick zips and rinses his hands. There is dialogue, which I can't recall, but the zips I remember, wondering if Cal forgot. A more selective treatment of detail, sensuous rather than mundane, would make this a better read. Still, it's a good story.
The Man Who Owned Vermont stands out for its characterizations of a 20something man whose job is distributing RC Cola to markets. He's recently separated, and the plot is driven by the dilemmae of his marital problems. The dialogue, the characterizations, and the situations are plausible, workable, and real as life.
Although an overt theme seems to be unfashionable these days, Mr. Lott adopts as one theme of this work the power of language and words. The protagonist, though intelligent and reasonably articulate, is, for reasons explained in the story, nearly incapable of any real insight into his own feelings or needs. Lott effectively uses the "supporting characters" as semaphore signals to the reader and to our narrator of what is really going on in his life. Unlike the similar device in Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, we do not come to mistrust the narrative voice of the clueless narrator. Lott's protagonist is anything but clueless, and, thank heaven, he does not babble or mutter on about obscure lit references like a grad seminar short story hero. Through patient story-telling, we come to understand that the narrator's emotional disconnection, and its very real effects on his very real life, *is* not only the character, but also the "real" story. The result is neither played for pathos or humor, but instead the work achieves a quiet, almost meditative, small reflection on the nature of language and story. The book is subtle, is well worked, and capably written.
Surprisingly, the part of the work that satisfies least is the way in which the denouemont is tied together after two disparate sequential events create a sort of twin climax. The ending seems slightly forced, but the overall effect of the work is that it is believable, very real, and about not only ideas, but also people.
If you like small films which use a realistic plot to tell a subtle story, like You Can Count on Me or The Winslow Boy, you'll be apt to like this small book which uses a decent but distracted man to make some interesting points.