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Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint - Brady Udall If there is a fictional trope I could probably do without it is the precocious child narrator. I can only read so many books about weirdly bookish children with a story to tell, or a life of destiny to live. And yet it seems like every time you turn around, there is a new one being trumpeted for its "unique, pitch-perfect voice," sometimes by me. Yeah, maybe I like some of these books (or not especially), and I'm even planning to read one soon that is over 1,000 pages long fergoshsakes. But in general, nine-year-olds are not super interesting as a rule, and it gets harder and harder to impress me by creating one that is "special" in a way that makes reading a book about her not rather tiresome.An easy way to get around this is the memoir novel. Sure, your lead is a precocious child. Sure, you want to use first-person voice. Just have it be narration from the character looking back over the years. It will require you to do less jumping through hoops to either write in an affected faux-simplistic style or make your narrator so extra-special that of course he uses big words and makes profound statements about the nature of existence (Jonathan Safran Foer is guilty of both of these annoying habits at the same time). So right off the bat, Brady Udall earns major points for doing just that: letting Edgar Mint tell us about his miracle childhood years after he's grown up and processed it, rather than trapping us in his limited worldview as it happens.Because I think that would be pretty frustrating: Edgar is a compelling character, but a frustrating one: born into a life of poverty on a Native American reservation and with a brain damaged by a terrible accident (head run over by a mail truck), he has plenty of affected quirks in place from the get-go: with no memory of growing up, he's naive about the world and his place in it; he can't write but loves to type (on an old fashioned typewriter, natch); he constantly wets the bed; because he survived what should have been a certain death, he considers himself touched by God and thus spends a lot of time contemplating religion; &c. It's pretty clear this "miracle life" is going to involve a lot of slightly fantastical adventures (and it does: death-defying scrapes with bullies at a school for orphans, daring escapes in the night, a quest to find his missing mother, living with Mormons). All of this plus a child narrator would be too much to take.But the adult Edgar proves a very amenable tour guide to this miracle life, allowing the child's POV to breathe while inserting just the right degree of perspective. Udall is also very elegant with his prose; both of his novels are consistently funny and thoughtful in equal measure. That other book is The Lonely Polygamist, which is still my favorite book of 2010 (and which I still haven't reviewed), and that one's a lot better, but The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint is definitely a good start. It drags a bit too much in the middle, which is why I'm knocking it down a star, but the destination is definitely worth the journey to get there: I can think of few books that end quite as satisfyingly.