The long acknowledged rule of the Mattagash bridge is that the first vehicle to reach the bridge has the right of way and any vehicle coming from the opposite direction must wait. Locals abide by this informal rule until the day that Orville Craft, the town's retiring mailman, and Vietnam vet Harry Plunkett, who have been feuding for almost their entire adult lives meet head on in the center of the bridge, each one maintaining that he was the first one on the bridge and therefore the other man must reverse off the bridge to allow him the right of way. They are so cantankerous that they are willing to sit at their impasse all day and night, blocking the bridge and causing all of this small town five hours north of Portland to come to a stand still. How they came to this is the focus of the novel.
The novel opens with new resident and small time drug dealer Billy Thunder waiting impatiently beside his mailbox for his anticipated package from his dealers in Portland. As he drives along delivering the mail, Orville's route offers the reader an opening glimpse of each of the characters who will play a large part in the novel, culminating in Orville's discovery that Harry Plunkett has turned his moose-shaped mailbox around so that Orville must now reach into the moose's backside to deliver mail. The everyday dramas of each of the characters, like this feud, play out alongside the bigger, more universal dramas of things like dissatisfaction in marriage, drugs, dead-end jobs and economic troubles, the devastating mental anguish left from the Vietnam War, and the insularity of the town.
The novel is quirky and delightfully eccentric with some truly comedic moments. Pelletier is spot on when describing her characters' interpersonal relationships, their misunderstandings and oddities. She's definitely captured the feel of a rural small town and the personalities that give it its unique character. The large cast of characters here does sometimes give the narrative a choppy feel as each of the plot lines alternates but they do eventually come together into one cohesive whole. Those who have read previous Mattagash-set novels will enjoy this latest foray into the fictional town while those new to the town and its residents will want to seek out prior novels.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.