Book #18

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall

Half Apache and mostly orphaned, Edgar's trials begin on an Arizona reservation at the age of seven, when the mailman's jeep accidentally runs over his head. Shunted from the hospital to a school for delinquents to a Mormon foster family, comedy, pain and trouble accompany Edgar through a string of larger-than-life experiences.

This is an old favourite, and Edgar an old friend. In the opening sentence, a mailman runs over Edgar’s head, and his survival of this disaster is only the first in a string of miracles which will recur over the rest of his life.

Udall has a real skill here for making the most cruel and unfortunate circumstances seem dreamlike and almost comical. Ceaseless prejudices, preventable deaths, abject loneliness, and the worst of human society, seem to follow Edgar wherever he goes. He narrates these with a child’s commentary, and a subtle indifference, as though each circumstance, beginning with the head-crushing accident, is just another milestone in a series of events which Edgar has accepted are his lot. The more he endures, the more he seems able to cope with, as though having your head run over means anything else can’t be quite as bad.

The narrative is so wonderful. Hearing Edgar’s view of the world from an adult perspective often means we have a much clearer idea of what’s happening than he does. It’s heartwarming to see him interpret life in his own way, and to make poor decisions and learn from them. 

I don’t want to mention any specific thing which happens in the plot. The absolute beauty here is journeying along with Edgar, and letting things fall where they will. It’s such a turbulent little life, and a joy to experience.

Not once have I met someone who has read this book, so it seems to be an uncovered gem. Entirely worthwhile, evoking both smiles and watery eyes; I last read this in 2009 and had completely forgotten how fulfilled and happy Edgar made me feel. Eat shit, Marty.