Who will accept Edgar Mint? As half Apache and half Caucasian, the young boy is an outsider in both communities of his home state, Arizona, in the 1960’s. His alcoholic mother does not want him; his father is long gone. When a mail jeep runs over his head, crushing it, he is assumed to be dead.
But an emergency room doctor restarts Edgar’s life. A year’s convalescence in a hospital returns him to nearly normal, except that brain damage leaves him epileptic and unable to perform handwriting. Another patient gives him a typewriter to compensate for his dysgraphia; through the rest of the novel the typewriter is his only confidante during a lonely, terrifying life at a boarding school for Native American children and later a stay with a grief-torn Mormon family. Meanwhile, the doctor who earlier saved his life, now a drug pusher, returns periodically to mess up every chance Edgar has for acceptance in the world. Finally, he sets himself a quest out of the simple, noble desire to do something good on his own: He searches for the postman who ran over him in order to assure the man that Edgar Mint lives after all. In an ending worthy of Charles Dickens, Edgar, now a teenager, fulfills his quest and learns to his complete surprise that he has been loved and accepted all along by someone he cannot even remember.
Brady Udall writes of Edgar with humor, warmth, and vivid intensity. Although the novel’s point of view, shifting from first person to third person unaccountably, may bemuse readers and its medical premise may seem unlikely at best, it presents an outcast’s brave, moving struggle to find a place in the world. In that, it is a thoroughly humane book, a marvel if not a miracle.