Pacificby Tom Drury
“All great books are strange . . . Pacific is a terrific book, and a strange one, as strange as the world and the great literature that helps us make our way through it.” —Daniel Handler, New York Times Book Review
In Pacific, Tom Drury revisits the community of Grouse County, the setting of his landmark debut, The End of Vandalism. When fourteen-year-old Micah Darling travels to Los Angeles to reunite with the mother who abandoned him seven years ago, he finds himself out of his league in a land of magical freedom. Back in the Midwest, an ethereal young woman comes to Stone City on a mission that will unsettle the lives of everyone she meets—including Micah’s half-sister, Lyris, and his father, Tiny, a petty thief. An investigation into the stranger’s identity uncovers a darkly disturbed life, as parallel narratives of the comic and tragic, the mysterious and quotidian, unfold in both the country and the city.
“I like [Drury’s] oddball but easygoing rhythm. . . . I like his occasional bouts of absurdity. . . . All great books are strange. Every lasting work of literature since the very weird Beowulf has been strange, not only because it grapples with the strangeness around us, but also because the effect of originality is startling, making even the oldest books feel like brand-new stories. . . . Drury overlays the grand and mythic with the specific and everyday, giving ordinary moments the majesty of legend. . . . [He] gives us the wondrous and engaging stuff of real storytelling, of actual inquiry and investigation into the haunting and jokey puzzles of the world, at a time when so much literature stops short of invoking something larger or spends so much time touting grand themes that it forgets to make something happen. Pacific is a terrific book, and a strange one, as strange as the world and the great literature that helps us make our way through it.” —Daniel Handler, The New York Times Book Review
“Drury gives his characters the sharpest dialogue I’ve read in some time. He’s interested in people, their odd decisions and their strange perceptions about everyday things. . . . Drury never loses focus. . . . Each new character [he] introduces plucks an intricate web, and the reverberations are felt far and wide. On the surface, Pacific is a disarmingly plain tale about people managing loss. But look closer, and you’ll see it’s as deep as the ocean it’s named after.” —Don Waters, San Francisco Chronicle
“For most of the characters in Drury’s novels, we do not know height or weight, hair or eye color (Louise, a redhead, is a notable exception), nor do we generally know states of mind and heart beyond those expressed in the character’s own words. And yet they are intensely real and rich and rounded presences, and—in the case of those from the earlier two novels—it is nice to see them again . . . Many in Pacific make mistakes, many lose things they think they could never stand to lose, and yet on they go in the rough old world, and you with them, peaceful at heart.” —Leland de la Durantaye, Los Angeles Review of Books
“The third of Drury’s books set in the fictional Grouse County, IA (following The End of Vandalism and Hunts in Dreams) Pacific catches up with characters Drury fans have come to cherish. It’s just a beautiful book of quiet power that deserves recognition as a contemporary classic, with Drury one of our living masters.” —McSweeney’s Recommends
“Elegant, simple prose . . . Drury’s fiction is chockablock with . . . tiny epics unfurling and resolving in quick, universally funny vignettes. In Pacific, these center around the characters from his debut, The End of Vandalism, certainly among the funniest, most humane American novels of the last quarter-century. . . . The philosophy in [his] fiction resides somewhere between humanism and absurdism. . . . [Pacific] has a Hollywood audition scene as unsettling, absurd, and deadpan as anything in Sunset Boulevard . . . [and a] pitch-perfect satire of a [student activist group] worthy of Wet Hot American Summer.” —Eugenia Williamson, The Boston Globe
“There are novels you read to find out what happens next, and novels you read to linger in the moment. Tom Drury’s new book, Pacific, falls squarely in the second category. . . . [Written with] sharp observations and deadpan wit.” —Jennifer Reese, NPR
“The reader never sees where Drury is headed with his story, which is what makes his stories so fresh and satisfying and unlike other authors. His novels are reminiscent of the films of David Lynch, with a touch of author Haruki Murakami thrown in. . . . Reading him makes one feel more human. That’s the beauty of Drury. . . . You read Drury to linger in the world he has created and marvel at the weird and wonderful characters that inhabit it.” —Jason Kuiper, World-Herald (Omaha)
“Reading Pacific makes me once again fall in love with Drury’s words, and his perception of a world that is full of dangers and passions and mysteries and graces.” —Yiyun Li
“A fine percussive beat sweeps the reader along . . . The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character who laughed with surprise in her heart.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Uncanny dialogue, deadpan humor, a few morbid twists, and a considerable amount of quirk make [Pacific] an engaging read.” —Publishers Weekly
“As in his previous masterful novels, Drury weaves carefully metered sentences, deeply felt scenes, and struggling characters into an endlessly entertaining tapestry of human comedy and small-town living.” —Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
“One of the great strengths of Drury’s fiction is his ability to suggest the deep funny-sadness of life without sinking to ridicule or bathos. He celebrates quirkiness of speech and habit for its ability to particularize the individual beyond stereotype. Unexpected gestures connect characters and reveal wounds of the heart. . . . Drury invests his characters with a warm-blooded immediacy that demands respect. . . . It’s rare to read a novel with so little cliché or convoluted prose, in which the dialogue is both believable and exceptional.” —Shelf Awareness
“Poetic, clever, and concise . . . Drury-ese [is] a language that exists mostly in dialogue and description, a dry bed of humor built on a sturdy rhythm and benevolently wry observation. . . . If The End of Vandalism provided a world for readers to slow down and catch their breath, Pacific is determined to knock it out of them.” —Drew Grant, New York Observer
Longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
A San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book
An Amazon.com Best Book of the Month
The Millions “Most Anticipated”: The Great 2013 Book Preview
Charlotte sat with knees up and arms folded around them.
“Would you mind if I bit you on the arm?” she said.
“Is this a hypothetical question?”
“Not hard or anything. It wouldn’t break the skin.”
“I don’t know. I get things going in my mind sometimes and, I don’t know, I just have to bite something. Do you know what I mean?”
“Do it to yourself how you would do it.”
She turned toward Micah, raised her forearm to her mouth, and clamped down on the inside edge midway between wrist and elbow. Her eyes opened wide and she would have been smiling had her mouth not been full of her arm. After a while she swung her arm out and they examined it together like it was something separate and entertaining. As they watched, the stark white of teeth marks gave way to the lion-mane color of her skin.
“Are you afraid it will hurt?” she said.
Micah was wearing a long-sleeve work shirt with the cuffs rolled. He pushed his right sleeve above the elbow and dusted off his arm.