Original, satisfying… A stunning feat.
Lockridge’s rollicking latest dissects the aboriginal community in the Cooperstown, New York, as an investigative journalist arrives in town to look into the disappearance of a gigantic human figure. Jack Thrasher, the investigative reporter for the Discovery Channel, arrives in Cooperstown, home of many gothic castles, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Glimmerglass Opera to look into the weird disappearance of a three-ton artifact of petrified gypsum, the Cardiff Giant, from the Farmers’ Museum. Jack begins his investigation, unaware of the astonishing events that would follow soon after. Lockridge interweaves his various protagonists’ stories, with asides about people’s religious and paranormal belief, the town’s colorful history, baseball, opera, tourism, cable TV programming, while conveying their yearning for love, connection, and purpose. Jack stays at the center of the story, but the book’s real star is Thor Ohnstad, whose inspiring journey from the son of a Midwesterner janitor to a country gentleman of immense wealth and means is familiar (with echoes of Fitzgearld’s Gatsby), and yet both honest and original. Esther and Sheila, with their fears, insecurities, inner turmoil, and petty sibling rivalry come across as vividly real. Lockridge adeptly portrays the pair’s expanded sense of consciousness as they try to cope with their personal traumas—Esther through sexual escapades and kabbalistic numerology and Sheila falling for every New Age racket that comes along (a particularly colorful scene has her behaving like a green-backed heron). Cooperstown is exotic and its inhabitants, with their self-punishing belief systems quirky. The various characters’ rollicking exploits are thrillingly and hilariously chronicled: the pair of Jack and Esther behind bars with magnesia water wreaking havocs on their digestive tracks; Barry Tarbox and the passionate Local Alien Abduction Focus group’s night raid on aliens; Jack and Sheila caught on national television with their pants down while trying the age-old boy scouts trick to put out the grass fire; and strings of calamitous events Jack repeatedly gets pulled into among others. Though the large cast of characters and their individual stories add complexity to the main storyline, Lockridge’s entertaining storytelling and sharp dialogue make sure the narrative never peters out. His witty, intelligent prose, keen understanding of human psyche, and impressive attention to detail carry the often winding story. Marcia Scanlon’s dramatic illustrations bring off the scenes of characters’ boisterous exploits as well as poignant emotions with distinct, intimate credibility. In addition to illuminating Cooperstown’s unsavory history of racism (there are only two Blacks and three Native Americans in its population of two thousand), the novel vividly illustrates the toil the relentless individual struggles can take on one’s psyche. John Irving fans need to check this one out. The hard-core literary fiction lovers will relish this immersive tale.
The Cardiff Giant
(The Enigma Quartet)
By Larry Lockridge
Pub date January 11, 2021
Price $6.33 (USD) Kindle edition, $23.99 Hardcover, $14.99 Paperback