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The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: A Novel Paperback – May 21, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reminiscent of another debut Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest this powerful first novel by short story writer Udall (Letting Loose the Hounds) is constructed around grotesque set pieces; black humor drives the plot. Set in the late '60s, Udall's story begins when seven-year-old Edgar Mint, the half-Apache, half-white narrator, is run over by the mailman's car, his head crushed. Abandoned by his grandmother and alcoholic mother after his remarkable recovery, the boy begins an odyssey through various institutions and homes, starting with St. Divine's hospital in Globe, Ariz., where he recuperates, through Willie Sherman's, a horrific school for Indian children, ending up placed with a dysfunctional Mormon family in Richland, Utah. The novel's long middle section, describing Edgar's brutalization at the Indian school by the other kids, captures the effect of what seems like endless bullying on a child's consciousness. Against this hostility, Edgar concocts a homemade magic, which consists mainly of typing on a clunky Hermes typewriter given to him by a fellow St. Divine's patient, Art Crozier, a middle-aged man who has lost his family in a car wreck. One of Udall's best touches is to make the doctor who saved Edgar, Barry Pinkley, into a mysterious and menacing figure, perpetually lurking on the sidelines, rather like Clare Quilty in Lolita. While Pinkley strives maniacally to be Edgar's guardian angel, the boy views him with ambivalent loathing. When Pinkley, disguised as a Mormon missionary, seduces Lana Madsen, the wife in the Mormon family that takes Edgar in, he sets off the final catastrophe in the boy's life. Udall's style is reminiscent of the '60s black humorists, but he doesn't share their easy cruelty or inveterate superciliousness, making this not only an accomplished novel, but a wise one.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-With Dickensian flair and mastery, Udall gives readers an underdog child protagonist, surrounds him with a cast of half-funny and half-tragic characters, and immerses them all in a plot full of staggering setbacks and occasional, hard-won moments of peace. When his head is crushed by a mail truck at age seven, Edgar is left for dead by his alcoholic, disinterested mother, who doesn't stick around to learn that he is later "brought back" by a shady doctor and whisked away to a hospital to recuperate. Some months and several delightfully cantankerous roommates later, Edgar regains all functions but the ability to write, which is more than solved when a fellow patient gets him a typewriter. Typing soothes the boy and becomes necessary therapy when he is released to an Indian school where other students punish him horrifically for being a "half-breed" (Apache and white). He is saved, literally and figuratively, by a pair of missionaries who recruit and place him with a Mormon family in a Utah suburb. Now that he feels relatively safe, the protagonist finds himself with a new purpose: to track down the devastated mailman who feels responsible for his death and let him know that he's alive and fine. Yet his sense of safety remains merely relative, as the disbarred doctor surfaces repeatedly in his life, full of menacing, disturbing love and determined to raise Edgar as his own son. This novel is a wonderful, wise debut, with a strong story told in language that teens will find easy to embrace.

Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 21, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375719180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375719189
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dickens on January 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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