Monday, July 02, 2012

ROUND MOUNTAIN by Castle Freeman Jr.

We grow from where our wounds are -- I'm convinced of this. And after reading ROUND MOUNTAIN by Castle Freeman Jr., I'm ready to apply the same idea to small, rural communities. In this case, the community includes second constable Homer Patch and his gently, sadly, tenderly confused life. Married to a woman who acts out sexually, parent to a child who can't stand, talk, embrace ... Homer carries more losses than seems fair. And yet, so do the others around him. And like Homer, the other people in his circle -- the Captain, Alva, Clay, Raymond -- have reasons to mourn, but also reasons to feel very much at home, with people who more or less understand them.

As a second constable -- a Vermont town position that usually has very little clout, other than being often called on to come collect stray dogs -- Homer's intervention in crises depends on who is willing to call him, who want to listen to him. With the same sense that knows whether a deer will come closer or spook and run, with the same dedication that tills the garden patch year after year, Homer's neighbors realize that calling him will bring more than just a badge into the situation. Here's Homer addressing one for a woman who wants a vagrant arrested or even shot, for the crime of sleeping in her barn:
"See, what it is you're asking me," he said. "You want me to come here and, what, shoot some kid for using your shed to get in out of the rain. That's what it comes to. You want to make a lot of trouble here that needn't be. My advice to you is what I said: lock the door. He will move on, and you won't be bothered. There's no need to bring an army out here for something like this."

"I don't want an army, Mr. Patch," Gretel said. "I only want you."

Homer sighed. "Could I get a glass of water?" he asked.
It is, of course, a mild ruse. Homer knows how to handle the situation, but he can't do it with Gretel looking over his shoulder.

Still, as Homer contributes his quiet "handling" to local matters, there are deep currents swirling. Among the twelve stories in ROUND MOUNTAIN, Castle Freeman Jr. unfolds the silken threads and Kevlar ropes that bind community and the heart. I expect to re-read this whenever I can't quite make sense of life. Like calling Homer, re-reading the collection won't necessarily make things better. But it may provide a calm reassurance that's very much needed.

Interested in a copy of the book? As of today, its publisher, Concord Free Press, is still willing to send you a copy, for FREE, anywhere. Check the details (and your reciprocal obligation) here.

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