Dan Kennedy, American Spirit: A Novel (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).
This is the second Dan Kennedy novel that I have read and like the other one, I find the main character to be not particularly likable, but his story captures me nonetheless. The tale is the story of someone whose life is falling apart and who has to start over, but not before quite a few missteps, dangerous behaviors and just plain strange thoughts. Through all of this, Kennedy keeps the reader engaged despite the need to enter into a story that wanders quite a ways from the world that we normally inhabit.
In the midst of the story, the main character spends some time in Yellowstone National Park in a motorhome driven by a friend and engages in a strange quasi-religious ceremony that involves igniting a chunk of magnesium. This particular scene required a significant suspension of disbelief for me. Kennedy didn’t do his research on towing vehicles, so the connection and towing is not at all the way that the process works and the process as described in the book wouldn’t work. I happen to be familiar with Slough Creek and the area and wondered that they found a place for their pyrotechnics that didn’t end up igniting the entire forest. A fire there could burn into multiple river drainages and thousands of acres of wilderness before it could be extinguished.
Nonetheless, I kept reading, found the somewhat unbelievable characters and situations to be engaging and the storytelling to be strong. It is a fascinating novel and a well-written contribution to contemporary fiction.