The Fall of the Year
The Fall of the Year
Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780395984161, 278pp.
Publication Date: October 12, 1999
The rugged and mysterious mountains of Kingdom County are the setting for Howard Frank Mosher's brilliant new autobiographical novel, The Fall of the Year. Like Mosher's acclaimed earlier novels, The Fall of the Year celebrates the fiercely independent people of Kingdom Common, including such memorable new characters as Foster Boy Dufresne, the local bottle picker and metaphysical savant; the incomparably strange clairvoyant and matchmaker, Louvia the Fortuneteller; Dr. Sam E. Rong, a wayfaring Chinese herbalist and connoisseur of human nature; the itinerant vaudevillian mind reader, Mr. Moriarity Mentality, who uses his unusual powers to teach the town fathers a lesson they will never forget; and the daredevil tomboy, Molly Murphy, who risks her life twice in a single day to fulfill her dream of running away with the Last Railway Extravaganza and Greatest Little Show on Earth. At the heart of The Fall of the Year are Kingdom County's baseball-playing, trout-fishing "unorthodox priest," Father George Lecoeur, his adopted son and protegé, Frank Bennett, and two interlocking love stories unlike any others in contemporary fiction. Written in Howard Frank Mosher's distinctively wry and ironical voice, with the straight-ahead narrative action that characterizes all his fiction, The Fall of the Year is a celebration of love in all its forms, from friendship to the most passionate romance, in a place where family, community, vocation, and the natural world still matter profoundly.
A usual cast of rural eccentrics peoples the latest from Vermont writer Mosher (Northern Borders, 1994, etc.), as he highlights a crucial summer for an orphan boy whos come home from college in the 1950s to prepare himself for the seminary. In little Kingdom Common, the heart of Kingdom County, young Frank Bennett sees that not much has changed while he was away, except that foul-mouthed, ballplaying Father George, the hotheaded priest who raised him, has lost much of his fire. A series of tasks the ailing priest has set out for Frank charts the course of the summer, starting with attempts to rein in the free-spirited village idiot,' who talks to his shadow, tries to kiss a moose on a bet, and finally vanishes from town in a blizzard. Frank's efforts meet with similar success when hes charged with overseeing a blithe young daredevil, a redheaded Irish girl excited to new heights by the arrival of a traveling circusshe upstages the acrobats on the flying trapeze and then runs off with the show. A darker side of life is reflected in Franks trip to Staten Island to visit the former owner of the Land of the Free Emporium, a Chinese man run out of town by those feeling the pinch of his entrepreneurial prosperity. And when an absent-minded Mr. Mentality comes to Kingdom Common to do a mind-reading show, his rage at not receiving his full fee translates into a terrifying public display of all the town's secrets. But the real story of the summer involves the local fortuneteller and a girl with laughing eyes who becomes Father George's housekeeper, and whose face Frank cannot put out of his mind. Capraesque storytelling bursting with juice and flavor, a novel as charming as it is colorful, even if it is at times a bit too predictable. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP.
All rights reserved. Kirkus Reviews
"Father George raised an adopted son, Frank Bennett, whose common-sensical point of view makes him an ideal narrator. Each exchange between the two is a small story in itself, in dialogue so right that you feel like you're eavesdropping on a small, special world." The New York Times
"Mosher's novel is filled with placid and elegant descriptions of nature, at times reminding me of a prose pastoral symphony. But people, not maple trees and trout streams alone, make a novel breathe, and this -- his talent for creating lively, living characters -- is Mosher's greatest gift. " -- reviewed by Sudip Bose The Washington Post
"I have always enjoyed reading the novels of Howard Frank Mosher, and I was especially taken by The Fall of the Year, which brings together in one book all of his considerable strengths. His principal character, Father George Lecoeur, is easily among his most durable creations. Mosher's language--always a pleasure to read--attains a level of astonishing grace and beauty here as he brings Kingdom County to life once again. Mosher writes with a narrative power and moral intensity that recall John Steinbeck at his best, and it is high time he were ranked among the finest writers of our time." -- Jay Parini, author of Robert Frost: A Life
"Few writers create characters as wondrous and idiosyncratic as Howard Frank Mosher--and fewer still offer us stories with as much grace and humor and heart. He is, pure and simple, one of the very best we have." -- Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives and The Law of Similars
"I have been a fan of Howard Frank Mosher since his astonishing Where the Rivers Flow North. He is a wonderful writer, and in the Fall of the Year he takes the gritty materials of Kingdom County and builds a novel of enchantment. The chapter called "The Daredevil" is one of the grandest set-pieces I have read in years. -- Ward Just, author of A Dangerous Friend
"Howard Frank Mosher is, for my money, the most natural storyteller around, and any new book of his is cause for joyous celebration. The Fall of the Year, which is impossible to read without recalling the best tales of Washington Irving and Mark Twain, is no exception." -- Richard Russo
"The Fall of the Year is a lyrical celebration of the natural world and the mysteries of human nature. As intelligent as it is generous, this is superb storytelling, a delightful novel filled with humor and grace, real people and miracles, love and loss." -- Alice Hoffman, author of Here on Earth and Practical Magic
"I read The Fall of the Year by lantern light in a tent thirty miles from Cody, Wyoming, bbut I expect the effect would have been as magical as if I'd been home. As younggggg Frank Bennett peels the layers from the history of Kingdom Common, a place where the rivers flow north and the evening skyglow is either an illusion or the distant reflection of Montreal, we see the secrets of the human heart in his lost village, the ugly and beautiful truths which vex and redeem us. The interplay of village characters in the light and dark times of Frank's awakening make this a special book. Let me just say it: I love Howard Mosher's writing." -- Ron Carlson, Author of The Hotel Eden and Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Howard Frank Mosher continues to bring alive Kingdom County, Vermont, not just with a cast of endearing and entertaining people, but with such an eye for nature that the reader can hear maple leaves shiver in the wind, brook trout splash in a forest pool. But this time, he's thrown together the most wonderful mixture of ingredients: love, magic, mystery, humor and sadness, all simmering in the same book. Imagine what would happen if Grandma Moses and William Faulkner got together and invented a town." -- Cathie Pelletier, author of Beaming Sonny Home, The Funeral Makers, and Once Upon a Time on the Banks
"A little bit of heaven can be found in the mountains of northern Vermont, a place populated by eccentrics, fortunetellers, small-minded civic functionaries and a man who just might be God. The village of Kingdom Common is the setting and centerpiece of Howard Frank Mosher's elegiac new novel, THE FALL OF THE YEAR." The Chicago Tribune
"You won't find Kingdom County on any official maps, but in his five previous novels Mosher created a literary landscape as textured as anything produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. A fine regional novelist who deserves wider recognition, Mosher writes stories, almost folk tales at times, built out of lost and forgotten history, rooted in a strong sense of place, inhabited with colorful characters. His terrain may be specific, but his themes are universal...in Mosher's hands, Kingdom County is full of all kinds of wonderments." USA Today