The new character in this book is an uneducated and uninterested high school student named Gordy Himmelman. Gordy is a blank, his emotions so deeply hidden as to be almost nonexistent. He is fascinated by Saul and Patsy, by their articulate difference, by their obvious affection for each other. They often find him standing in their front yard simply staring at the sky. After his spectacular death for which Saul and Patsy feel responsible he becomes the ghost who haunts the book. A genuinely ghoulish small-town cult grows up around the young man who had been friendless in life, and rumors of his ghostly appearances spread all through Five Oaks. That Baxter is able to invest all of this with his own kind of midwestern magic, yet can often fool even very good readers into thinking he writes a kind of realistic fiction, might be seen as the true measure of his talent.
Charles Baxter reads from Saul and Patsy on Friday, October 3.
[Originally published in October, 2003.]