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Juggling Kittens by Matt Coleman
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Juggling Kittens

by Matt Coleman

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Recently added byRebeccaGransden, CPolk625

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Matt Coleman’s debut novel has an impressive command of place. The world is one of the backwoods, those meandering pathways that are only travelled with purpose or by the lost. People inhabit but the place is the predominant character here. Under the free eye of the woods trailer trash take their cues from the remoteness their placement offers them. Coleman deftly presents a vivid depiction of waste, both human and of the land. The universe built is very immersive, immediate and sucked me in instantly. I liked this a lot.

We follow a young teacher, amiable, a bit stressed, searching somewhat. One day a pupil goes missing and he takes it upon himself to care, because if he doesn’t no-one else will. His pupils are old enough to interact with him on a mutually knowing level, full of the secret and iron centre of growing into themselves. He sets about trying to extract the information he needs to find the missing pupil, frequently meeting dead end conversations that ripple with elusive motivations. The characters are very real.

A compelling mystery is the superficial draw, and that aspect is executed very well, but the lasting impression I will take from this book is the haunting quality of the world, and the characters that almost come and go as if in a dream. There is a melancholy attached to the lives described, a lightly unsettling tone that presents the inherent strangeness of those who keep to the margins, which is only amplified by the even more bizarre nature of those who cling to the parade of small-town normalcy. How these lives intersect and the intricacies of their relation is always interesting, and I was left wanting more time to soak in the world on leaving it.

Very promising, and this writer is now permanently on my radar. ( )
  RebeccaGransden | Feb 17, 2017 |
A bitter-sweet darkly humorous trek into trailer-trash hell

Spencer disappeared. That may not seem too important to the world as a whole, but to Ellis Mazer, a first year seventh grade English teacher, having one of his students go missing was a natural disaster.

What follows is a bitter-sweet, even darkly humorous, trek into trailer-trash hell along the Texas/Arkansas border. Juggling Kittens has a cast of characters who are products of an impoverished culture with few expectations, other than those driven by drug or alcohol addiction; except a driving desire to live their lives, right or wrong, in their own way without interference. Mess with it at your own risk, Mr. Mazer! These characters recognize common social bonds such as growing up in the same geographic area, going to school and, sometimes, to church together and tend to protect each other despite the law or any value represented by an outsider such as Mazer.

Enter Shane Charbeau and Daniel Mallory. Mallory is a manipulator who is likely to do anything just to avoid boredom. Charbeau, unlike Mallory, has a conscience. Brad, the deputy sheriff, needs a bad guy to blame for a suspected murder and an excuse to rid the county of a drug dealer. Reverend Mallory will protect his son, Danny, at the expense of everyone in Ruddy Creek. And, oh, incidentally…what do you suppose Spencer wrote about in his English essay that caused him to disappear?

Matt Coleman has produced an engaging piece of rural Americana spiced with humor, well written in a style all his own and ‘drop dead’ entertaining. I was afraid for Spencer’s life throughout the book; you will be too! Many teachers are likely to identify with this story and mystery, detective and crime/action readers should like it as well. ( )
  CPolk625 | Feb 1, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0997135131, Paperback)

Ellis Mazer is a soon-to-be father, a first year English teacher, and a directionless twenty-something entering the directionless 2000-somethings. Local and national tragedies feed Mr. Mazer's seventh graders the essay fodder that almost makes his job bearable. But when Spencer--trailer trash with more ring worms than friends--stops coming to school, Ellis discovers that he may be the only person who even notices, much less cares. What begins as a good-natured attempt to deliver some make-up work tumbles headlong into a quest deep into hillbilly noir in an attempt to verify that there is still some good in what appears to be a crumbling world.

Ellis is partnered with The Drew--full-time assistant principal, part-time private detective. He and The Drew explore the shadows and calluses of backwoods Arkansas to find that Spencer's disappearance is directly linked to the disappearance of a little girl. And it doesn't much feel like anyone wants the truth of what happened to either kid to emerge. Even Ellis is unsure of how much he cares. He only knows that in order to believe in his ability to be a husband or father, for some reason, he must find Spencer.

Among the swirling depravity of society, the crippling panic of impending parenthood, and the mounting scrap heap of seventh grade essays, one Arkansas town sees two kids go missing. Ellis Mazer only wants to find one of them. And if he can pull that off, he might not ever become a good teacher, but he might at least become a good person

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 01 Feb 2017 13:05:41 -0500)

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