Excerpt from Want Not by Jonathan Miles, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

Want Not

by Jonathan Miles

Want Not by Jonathan Miles X
Want Not by Jonathan Miles
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Nov 2013, 400 pages
    May 2014, 400 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

After retying the bag and replacing it onto the heap, Talmadge went about frisking the other bags. He was after the pleasant dumpy squish that meant produce, which he found after several gropings. He wrestled the bag off the pile—it was unusually heavy, suggesting melons—and opened it on the sidewalk.

"Five dollars," he heard someone say. One of the canners at the bottle-redemption machines, about six yards down the sidewalk: a hunched, skittery black guy in a long charcoal overcoat, no taller than five-foot-five though possibly five-foot-ten if he would or could stand up straight, and while he looked about eighty—owing partly to his posture, but also his rheumy eyes which were capped with the kind of wildly unkempt and woolly gray eyebrows one saw in portraits of nineteenth-century lunatics—he was probably closer to sixty. With an empty plastic bag hanging from his hand, he was staring at the machine marked cans as if squaring off against it in a brawl.

"Five fucking dollars," he said to it. He looked to his left, where a short, disfigured Chinese woman was waiting with a can-filled handcart and where another canner Talmadge called Scatman—grizzly-sized from the multiple overcoats he was wearing, and sporting his trademark vintage earphones—was feeding a huge cache of Evian bottles into the maw of the plastics machine; then to his right, where Talmadge was watching him with an opened bag of mucky produce at his feet; and then finally upward to where a sign, perched above the bank of machines, read automatic redemption center. Talmadge had once suggested, jokingly, that he and Micah ought to transplant the sign to the Most Holy Redeemer Church around the corner on 3rd Street. She didn't think it was funny but then funny wasn't her thing.

Scatman wasn't scatting. Usually he serenaded his deposits, and accompanied his collecting, with mumbled scat-singing, or something resembling it: skippity dip da doo, bop de-diddlee, bam bam bam. Hence the nickname. Talmadge wasn't sure whether Scatman's vinyl-covered earphones—padded and brown and big as coconut halves—were related to the scatting, or if indeed they were even connected to anything, but he'd never seen Scatman without them, in warm weather or cold, so he supposed they served some function. As for the Chinese woman: Talmadge knew her, or was anyway familiar with her. She was a part-time canner who walked a fixed route in the early evenings, plucking cans out of the corner trash barrels with a plastic, purple-and-lime green pincing tool of the kind sold in toy stores. Their paths crossed often enough that she and Talmadge would sometimes acknowledge each other with a flick of eye contact or more rarely a nod. He called her Teeter, because the grievous shortness of one of her legs caused her to teeter down the street. But Hunch, and his five dollars—he was someone new.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from Want Not by Jonathan Miles. Copyright © 2013 by Jonathan Miles. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 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!

Beyond the Book:
  Food Waste

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Eat the Apple
    Eat the Apple
    by Matt Young
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Matt Young's memoir tackles the space in between truth and ...
  • Book Jacket: Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Tara Westover had the kind of upbringing most of us can only imagine. She was the youngest of seven ...
  • Book Jacket: The Girls in the Picture
    The Girls in the Picture
    by Melanie Benjamin
    Melanie Benjamin's fine historical novel about the relationship between two women in the early ...
  • Book Jacket: The Driest Season
    The Driest Season
    by Meghan Kenny
    On a summer afternoon in 1943, an almost sixteen-year-old Cielle Jacobson walks into the family barn...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The House of Broken Angels
    by Luis Alberto Urrea

    The definitive Mexican-American immigrant story from an acclaimed storyteller.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Y L D W D, Y'll G U W Fleas

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & 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.