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The English Major


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In this entertaining road novel, Harrison (Returning to Earth) chronicles the travels of Cliff, a 60-year-old farmer and former high school teacher suddenly separated from his wife (who has sold the family farm) and on his own. In the American literary tradition, he takes to the road, heading west from Michigan and reuniting with a former student along the way. They carry on a torrid and confusing affair in motel after motel along the northern route, keeping to rural roads through small-town America. Once the woman catches up with her family in Montana, Cliff continues on his own, finally making it to the home of his wealthy gay son in San Francisco. Cliff is a mixture of redneck and intellectual, at home behind a tractor but also tuning in to NPR during his travels and musing about Lord Byron or Henry Miller in rambling stream-of-consciousness sentences. Eventually, he heads home, but in the meantime there is schmoozing in bars, flirting with younger women, drinking, smoking, indigestion, and Harrison's pointed observations on life and love, from cell phones to small-town landscapes, cherry farming, and fly-fishing. Very humorous and engaging, this work is recommended for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/08.]--Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

In Harrison's funny, spirited latest, Cliff, a 60-year-old former Michigan high school teacher, bids adieu to his inherited family farm (lost in a shady real estate deal); his wife, Vivian, of 38 years (who has been cheating on him and orchestrated the deal) and dear departed dog Lola (the "truest woman in my life"); and sets off on a yearlong, countrywide jag. Armed with his childhood jigsaw puzzle mapping the 50 states, Cliff endearingly tosses out a puzzle piece every time he crosses state lines, reminisces and tries (with as much humor as he can muster) to make the best of his shattered existence. The miles between Minnesota and Montana play host to a melodramatically drawn-out love/hate "romantic triumph" with Marybelle, a married former student. She stalks Cliff well into a visit with his affluent gay son, Robert, flourishing in San Francisco. As more calamity ensues in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana, the possibility of reconciliation with Vivian looms. With a plot left deliberately thin, Harrison is consistently witty and engaging as he drives home his timeless theme: that change can be beneficial at any point in life. (Oct.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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