Presidio: Book summary and reviews of Presidio by Randy Kennedy

Presidio

by Randy Kennedy

Presidio by Randy Kennedy X
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2018
    320 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

Set in the 1970s in the vast and arid landscape of the Texas panhandle, this darkly comic and stunningly mature literary debut tells the story of a car thief and his brother who set out to recover some stolen money and inadvertently kidnap a Mennonite girl who has her own reasons for being on the run.

Troy Falconer returns home after years of working as a solitary car thief to help his younger brother, Harlan, search for his wife, who has run away with the little money he had. When they steal a station wagon for the journey, the brothers accidentally kidnap Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl asleep in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together these unlikely road companions attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha's vengeful father.

The story is told partly through Troy's journal, in which he chronicles his encounters with con artists, down-and-outers, and roadside philosophers, people looking for fast money, human connection, or a home long since vanished. The journal details a breakdown that has left Troy unable to function in conventional society; he is reduced to haunting motels, stealing from men roughly his size, living with their possessions in order to have none of his own and all but disappearing into their identities.

With a page-turning plot about a kidnapped child, gorgeously written scenes that probe the soul of the American West, and an austere landscape as real as any character, Presidio packs a powerful punch of anomie, dark humor, pathos, and suspense.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Kennedy has a fertile imagination he lets drift into many beguiling detours, and the writing sparkles throughout." - Kirkus

"Kennedy soberly etches a Texas landscape of violence and despair as vividly as anything by Larry McMurtry." - Publishers Weekly

"Kennedy employs a conversational and reflective tone as he skillfully explores the nature of guilt, identity, and grief in his assured debut. This deceptively polished confessional imbues the three-dimensional characters with humor, cynicism, and considerable pathos in artful contrast to the moonlike landscape of West Texas... For fans of Larry McMurtry and Philipp Meyer." - Booklist

"Kennedy...creates a reality that blows desert dust into the eyes and cheap motel musk into the nostrils, successfully capturing the intertwining lives of sad sacks who are painfully and at times comically doomed. Those who enjoy classic Western 'drifter dramas' will be sinfully satisfied." - Library Journal

"Here is a rich and rare book. Reader, if you like poor Texas boys gone bad (or not bad enough), landscapes so accurate in detail you feel you grew up there, coldly logical Mennonite girls with outcast Manitoban-Mexican papas, magnetic details about old cars, the finer points of an automobile-thieving, and a magisterial use of italics you will want to read this novel through twice in a row as I did...you will laugh, you will cry and you will read it again straight through to enjoy the fine points of marvelous writing. There is nothing out there like Presidio." - Annie Proulx, author of Barkskins

"Presidio is set in what I think of as Max Crawford Country - the bleak dreamscape around the edges of the Caprock, where life is, to say the least - gritty. Randy Kennedy captures the funny yet tragic relentlessness of survival in an unforgiving place. Let's hope he keeps his novelistic cool and brings us much, much more." - Larry McMurtry

"Randy Kennedy writes wonderful prose. He combines the detail and eye of a journalist with the lyricism of a poet. If you want to read about the real deal down in Texas, he's your man." - James Lee Burke, author of Robicheaux

"Randy Kennedy's Mexican-American frontier of the 1970s occupies the same dustblown landscape painted by Cormac McCarthy. Car thieves and drug dealers tumble together with Mennonites and luncheonette waitresses - all of them lightened by empty pockets, small dreams, and minimal futures. From these elements Kennedy assembles a gorgeously written narrative of outrunning violence and despair." - Carol Anshaw, author of Carry the One

"A fabulous novel, executed in rare and exquisite language...Kennedy is truly the literary heir to Cormac McCarthy in his depiction of the vivid characters and sparsely beautiful landscape of the American West." - Dinitia Smith, author of The Honeymoon

"An absolute marvel of a novel. Like a nesting doll, it continually uncovers stories within stories, each revealing the depth and humanity of its fascinating cast of characters. Kennedy has given us a wonderfully compelling portrait of the American West in the second half of the twentieth century, full of danger, humor, and surprises." - Ian Stansel, author of The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo

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Author Information

Randy Kennedy

Randy Kennedy was born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised in Plains, a small farming town in the Texas Panhandle, where his father worked as a telephone lineman and his mother as a teachers' aide. He was educated at the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to New York City in 1991 and worked for twenty-five years as a staff member and writer for The New York Times, first as a city reporter and for many years covering the art world. A collection of his city columns, Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York, was published in 2004. For The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine he has written about many of the most prominent artists of the last 50 years, including John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Nan Goldin, Paul McCarthy and Isa Genzken. He is currently director of special projects for the international art gallery Hauser & Wirth. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Janet Krone Kennedy, a clinical psychologist, and their two children.

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