Monday, April 14, 2014

ALL I HAVE IN THIS WORLD by Michael Parker

The latest from award winning author Michael Parker (The Watery Part of the World) may initially be a bit of a puzzler for some as the main character is a car.  Albeit not just any car but “a 1984 Buick Electra....It was a sweet low block of a ride, light blue with a strip of black vinyl along the bottom of the doors, perfect for rumbling around town with the windows open.”
It has somehow wound up in a used car lot in the unremarkable town of Pinto Canyon, Texas.  How and why it came to this place we learn by the magical pen of Parker who weaves in the Electra’s travels during the past 20 years.  Who owned it and what did it mean to them?

In the present day we meet two surprising protagonists, both down on their luck, both seeking forgiveness.  Marcus Banks is a young man who had a dream - he wanted to build a farm and educational center on his family’s land in North Carolina.  Not such a great idea as the property is foreclosed on by the bank.  He has not only lost his inheritance but his sister’s as well.  Running is all he knows to do so he hops into his pickup and heads for Mexico with a stopover in Pinto Canyon.  Once there impressed by the beauty of the land he decides to take a hike and explore some of it.  While he’s communing with nature his pickup is stolen.

Maria is nervous about seeing her mother who is waiting for her in the El Paso airport’s Baggage Claim.  It has been ten years since Maria has been in Texas - a decade since she ran away from Pinto Canyon after her boyfriend, Randy, killed himself.  Now, for reasons that she may not be able to articulate she is returning home, taking a leave of absence from her job as a chef in Oregon to help her mother run a motel.  Both are chary of the other, careful of what is said or unsaid.

Eventually Maria decides that she needs her own car and as fate and Parker would have it she meets Marcus at the local used car lot.  Both of them are eying the Electra and as Maria knows nothing about cars she asks Marcus to do a test drive for her.  He’s a bit taken aback wondering, “What sort of place is this, anyway?  A lithe and lovely woman, blown up from nowhere, had just asked him to test drive a car for her.”  As it happens that is the car he wants.  Since both are somewhat strapped for cash they come up with an unusual solution - they will buy the car together and share its use.

It is through this relationship that the pair overcome their reticence and initial suspicions to become friends.  In the doing of this readers are treated to descriptions of the heartbreak and hopelessness each has suffered.  Parker has an eye, an awareness of human hearts and finds perfect words to describe their condition.

At times funny, sometimes sad, always gentle All I Have In This World holds something for those who have experienced the pain of being lost and the grateful joy of being found.

- Gail Cooke

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