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Pete Beatty's debut novel CUYAHOGA is as comically genius as a Coen Brothers film; his narrative skill and voice as singular as Faulkner's; his imagination as dizzying and expansive as the talltale feats of hero Big Son it recalls Page by page, I felt like the top of my head had blown off: even the most seemingly thrownaway lines left me astonished at their efficiency and beauty A most startlingly original novel, CUYAHOGA is as close a reading experience to first discovering Salinger and Nabokov as I have ever found I am so grateful to the author and to his publisher Scribner for an early advance copy of this remarkable debut. Being a good bit rusty in reading the talltales genre shouldn't hurt a potential reader of this riproarin' saga tailored to an adult audience Like all good folklore, its fiction is rooted in fact: in this case, the lovehate relationship between burgeoning Cleveland and its sister city (with somewhat of an inferiority complex) on the western banks of the Cuyahoga RiverOhio Cityin the early 1800's The chronicler of this series of ever heroic and at times foolhardy, feats of the preternaturally mighty orphan Big Son of Ohio City is his alltoohuman younger brother, Meed (speaking of inferiority complexes) In matters of love and vengeance, heroism and meanness, these brothers attempt to navigate their way to a decent future for themselves and for Ohio City while navigating relations with their lessthanrefined community of variously fickle, unschooled, demanding, and unappreciative neighbors and coworkers Oh, and of course they both have their hearts set on the same worshipped ladylove, the fair farmgirl Cloe There are dastardly doings afoot between the powersthatbe in Cleveland and in Ohio City, and Big Son and Meed get dragged right into the middle of it all Happy ever after may not be in the cards for them, for all their herculean efforts, and Ohio City's fortunes become very much tied up in theirs No shortage of farfetched feats and coarse and colorful language along the way! I don’t like to write disappointing reviews and I always try to find something nice to say, if possible, since every author spills his/her guts out to tell a story and a publisher found merit in the work or would not have invested in the book So, this isthan a little embarrassing, because this is my first review for a book requested from Edelweiss, and I (literally) asked for it (double entendre, intended) Let’s start with the good stuff The cover art of the book is lovely Next, the title – so romantic – Cuyahoga (Crooked River) And, the period – WOW – pioneers settling the Northwest Territory, circa early 1800’s, in Ohio City and Cleveland, shortly after Ohio was admitted to the Union as the 17th state, on March 1803 This had all the makings of something I would love: I grew up in the region, I was feeling nostalgic, and the publisher’s blurb was appealing.So where did the book go wrong for me? My expectations I was looking to be transported to a pioneering atmosphere in a beautiful sylvan and wild nature setting, resplendent with rivers, lakes and falls (so prevalent in the region) Everything was there but in a Phantasmagorical hodgepodge that made no sense to me at all To compound my confusion, neither the written language nor the writing style was in any way appealing (some kind of poetic device to correlate with the phantasmagorical theme?).(Columbus Street Bridge c 1837)The story of the rival Ohio City and Cleveland communities attempting to blow up the Columbus Street Bridge is based on some fact, also the Cuyahoga river fires occurred over periods as early as the period of this book due to spills and pollution of flammable materials As for the rest of the nonsense described, I can’t be sure because it I could not follow much of it.Getting back to the positive, and since a very clever poetic device (certainly any humor) might have gone right over my head, I conclude that if you love fantasy, allegorical, creative language, and literary invention then this may be the book for you And although I prefer literary convention but don’t want to seem narrowminded, I’ve rated the book (rounded up to) three stars in deference to mycreative literary Friends (who probably have a better sense of humor than me).Thank you Edelweiss, Scribner, Simon Shuster, for giving me the opportunity to read Cuyahoga, by Pete Beatty, in exchange for my own, honest opinion. Thanks to Scribner and Goodreads for an ARC through the Goodreads giveaway program.The narration through Medium Son, aka 'Meed', was the highlight of the novel Dialogue and turnsofphrase galore as he details the adventures and tribulations of his older brother Big Son Besides Meed and Big, Beatty treats us to a number of memorable characters as well My problem mostly lies with the story itself The beginning of this novel sets us up for a tall tale, however the rest of the novel loses steam and focuses on a transition in the national spirit We are treated to a few funny episodes, but I found most of the novel to be on the dull side If not for Meed's colorful commentary and an occasionally astute observation, I would almost call this novel boring On the plus side, the ending is surprising and suggestive of that change in the national spirit that Beatty centers his novel around This novel is really about the death of the mythological age There's a lot to like here, but I can't help but feel that Beatty had so muchto offer with this book An author to keep our eye on though Good, but not great Three stars. A spectacularly inventive debut novel that reinvents the tall tale for our times—“Cuyahoga defies all modest description…[it] is ten feet tall if it’s an inch, and it’s a ramshackle joy from start to finish” Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls Big Son is a spirit of the times—the times beingBehind his broad shoulders, shiny hair, and churchorgan laugh, Big Son practically made Ohio City all by himself The feats of this prontosuperhero have earned him wonder and whiskey toasts but very little in the way of fortune And without money, Big cannot become an honest husband to his beloved Cloe who may or may not want to be his wife, honestly In pursuit of a steady wage, our hero hits the dirt streets of Ohio City and Cleveland, the twin towns racing to become the first great metropolis of the West Their rivalry reaches a boil over the building of a bridge across the Cuyahoga River—and Big stumbles right into the kettle The resulting misadventures involve elderly terrorists, infrastructure collapse, steamboat races, wild pigs, and multiple ruined weddings Narrating this “deliriously fun” Brian Phillips tale is Medium Son—known as Meed—apprentice coffin maker, almanac author, orphan, and the younger brother of Big Meed finds himself swept up in the action, and he is forced to choose between brotherly love and his own ambitions His uncanny voice—plain but profound, colloquial but surprisingly poetic—elevates a slapstick frontier tale into a screwball origin myth for the Rust Belt In Cuyahoga, tragedy and farce jumble together in a riotously original voice Evoking the Greek classics and the Bible alongside nods to Looney Tunes, Charles Portis, and Flannery O’Connor, Pete Beatty has written a rollicking revisionist midWestern with universal themes of family and fate—an old, weird America that feels brand new Thanks to Edelweiss for my ARC.I love debut novels and a great indicator here is the stupidbeautiful artwork What a cover! So a catching premise a new work and killer artwork to book this got me to the point that I needed to request an advance reader copy I always read books by their covers and then dive in into be either proved wrong by the wild assumptions I made based on the artwork or to have my instincts rewarded The cover is familiar: this is wild wild west frontiersman story territory this is totally strange why is the guy's torso growing outward along with his axe? This novel is familiar and also deeply weird The premise is a story about everything that is the American Tall Tale but with the absurdity knob set to ungodly levels If you are looking for Historical Fiction this is sort of that but it is also none of that This novel is wholly original and wildly inventive The main character Big Son is the tall tale character you know all too well However it is narrated by get this, Medium Son (!!), the younger brother of Big Son I mean WOW that is just wildly funny and amazing and should set you off right here and now that his novel is Weird Historical Fiction Weird Historical Fiction in my mind is what Hernan Diaz has done in In the Distance and Pete Beatty has done it as well but in an entirely different mode however what remains is the deeplyweird It is 1837 and he is big and white with the hair and the laugh and the shoulders and he did it all all the feats he did them andOne thing about Big Son though is that he is broke so he cannot marry is love Cloe So what is our big man to do? He sets out to make himself an honest man worthy of his beloved's hand in marriage: very in the spirit of the times Big son in his quest to makeof himself finds an adventure in the twin cities of Ohio City and Cleveland and the struggle over the Cuyahoga Rive The adventure that follows is wild and fun unlike anything you have read but if you are an American familiar with the tall tale then it will be totally familiar too It is like going to the Zoo and seeing some exotic animal for the first time without context: you know its from Africa or China or some island and its from earth but its shocking unlike anything else you have seen Cuyahoga is in this way familiarly strange and mesmerizing.The writing is just spectacularly inventive It is poetic lyrical and devastatingly original The choice to have Meed, Medium Brother, narrate give the novel much of its weirdness and allows for so much of what makes this debut a shocking delight Cuyahoga is hilariously funny, poetic, slapstick screwball frontier madness, full of fantasy and pure literary originality Cuyahoga is a Weird American Legend Revisionist Historical Fiction that reframes the tall tale into something altogether new It is what you need to read right now. I was lucky enough to get an early copy from Scribner This is just such a fun romp of a book A big fable that’s grounded in wonderfully drawn characters Big Son is constantly performing Paul Bunyanesque, his brother is a jealous witness and Cloe is the girl they both want Great period dialogue keeps this book soaring throughout. I *lovvvved* this book Incredibly done I feel like Beatty perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the Old West(tm) and the way that tall tales were told I love how Big starts to question if he's becoming a spirit as Johnny Appleseed was and I love how subtle the jealousy Meed feels towards his brother This book is like a series of small stories that could be told by the campfire and was stitched together into a beautiful and cozy quilt of a narrative It's a book about how legends are made and broken, how people become stories and stories become people Brilliant in every way. Picture the cast of Waiting for Guffman performing in a Coen Brothers film, starring Sheila Anderson (Catherine O'Hara) as Cloe My initial confusion when I started reading quickly turned into a desire to follow these weird and wonderful characters The first chapter knocked my socks off and there was no turning back With a smile on my face, I allowed myself to be swept away by this oddly poetic, screwball origin myth Set in the 1830s Beatty brilliantly makes a connection to the world we live in today This is the stuff that legends are made up. You need to ease yourself into the rhythms of this book, rhythms which may feel dense and impenetrable until you track our narrator’s idiosyncratic speaking style But once you do (and truthfully, it won’t take that long)wow, what a wonderful book Cuyahoga follows the exploits of local largerthanlife Big Son, as related by his brother, Middle (or Meed) What starts as a tall tale expands into a profile of Ohio City and its rival sister city, Cleveland, and ultimately takes some unexpected turns and takes on a variety of tones Meed’s voice is at turns expansive and unreliable and insightful and loving and resentful, but ultimately completely compelling I can’t recommend this book highly enough such a unique, confident debut for author Beatty.