BIG MAN COMING DOWN THE ROAD by Brad Smith (Penguin), 357 pages, $25 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Brad Smith's subject matter - cowboys, farmers and the women who love them - has never really been my thing. But because Smith's guys are fascinating and the women strong, often talking tougher than their male counterparts, his books give real pleasure.
In Big Man Coming Down The Road, rich man Everett Eastman bequeaths his sizable estate to his three kids, with one condition each.
Brainy indie doc filmmaker Kick has to make sure she finishes an album with the legendary Jason Peck for her newly acquired Great North record company; stoner Ethan, who speaks solely in Bob Dylan lyrics, must turnaround the family distillery; and baddie Ben has to complete a deal with Toyota for the Eastman auto parts firm.
Ben, for his part, wants to challenge the will and force his siblings to fail.
The secondary characters are a total treat: Suzi, the slutty recording exec who makes crappy country records; Will, the taciturn farmer and executor of the Eastman will; Johanna, the aging housekeeper who is, judging by the reaction of the men around her, hot hot hot.
I love that about Smith. He just will not bow to stereotypes - the women, no matter their age, give off a major whiff of sexuality, the guys may be laconic but they are not dim. Both the men and women act like heroes and villains.
He's got a real sense of place, too. Pear Orchard, the family farm, is lovingly evoked, field by field. If you want to know what Nashville's like without booking a flight, dive into this book.
The story just rocks. It's part potboiler, part love story and all heart. The Giller jury may not exactly be calling, but Smith is a Canadian original.
Put away your assumptions and enjoy the ride.