Excerpt from The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Bricklayer

A Novel

by Noah Boyd

The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd X
The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2010, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Before

As Mickey Stillson stared at the gun in his hand, he absent-mindedly reached up and adjusted the fake ear that was his entire disguise and wondered how a born-again Christian like himself had wound up in the middle of a bank robbery.

A year earlier, he had been so certain of his religious conversion that when he went before the Illinois parole board, he let his inner peace sell itself. He asked its members to address him as Michael—a name that he felt emitted a soft, evangelical glow—because like Saul giving way to Paul, prison had been his personal road to Damascus. Confinement, he explained to the stony faces in front of him, had actually been his salvation. Without it, he would never have found God, the void that had sent his previous life tumbling end over end, resulting in a three-year-long incarceration for forgery.

He couldn’t help but wonder now if finding God hadn’t in fact been strictly a means of survival. After all, his ear had been cut off by an inmate they called “Nam” the first week Mickey had been released into the prison’s general population, leaving little argument that surviving on his own would be difficult. Although Nam had never been in the military, Stillson’s was the third ear he had collected in as many years. No matter how thoroughly Nam’s cell was searched after each incident, the appendages were never found, giving rise, due largely to inmates’ need of fiction, to the rumor that he had devoured them in some sort of ritual he had become addicted to in Vietnam.

Within a month, Stillson had found God. As his wounds healed, he found the gnarled stump did have some benefit. While some men displayed tattoos or scars as warning to others, Stillson was missing an ear—an entire ear—which was something that even heavyweight champions couldn’t claim.

He pulled his hand away from the fake ear in disgust. Maybe he was just a jailhouse Christian, but none of that seemed to matter at the moment. He would have liked to believe that just committing an armed felony demanded that his faith be reevaluated, but he had to admit that the police officers who had surrounded the bank probably had something to do with it. He cursed himself for thinking he could ever be a real bank robber. Hell, he wasn’t even much of a forger.

He peeked outside, around the frame of one of the bank’s full-length front windows, to see if the police had moved any closer, but they were still the same distance away, lying with weapons at the ready across the trunks and hoods of their cars, apparently waiting only for the slightest provocation. At a safe distance behind them were satellite dishes on top of the television news vans, ensuring this was going to play out to the end.

Greedy—that’s what he and his partner, John Ronson, had become. They hadn’t been satisfied with just robbing the tellers. Instead, they decided the take could be doubled, or even tripled, by “getting the vault.” It was Ronson’s idea; actually he had insisted on it. Stillson had deferred to him, since he was the expert, if a previous conviction and prison stretch for bank robbery could be considered know-how.

Nervously, Stillson reached up again and touched the artificial ear. Ronson had made him wear it. “Don’t you watch TV? The cops are lousy with technology since we went inside. All they got to do is check their computers for convicted felons with one ear and they got you. And once they got you—no offense, Mickey—they got me.” So they went to a costume shop and bought a half-dozen fake ears, trying, with minimal success, to match the color of Stillson’s skin. He also had to let his hair grow a little longer so when they tied the ear in place with clear fishing line, he could comb his hair over the almost invisible filament. Ronson thought the disguise looked good; Stillson was fairly certain he looked ridiculous.

Excerpted from The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd. Copyright © 2010 by Noah Boyd. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya

    A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.