Louis Benfield, Jr., formerly of Neely, North Carolina, is now living in New York City, and neither Louis nor the city will ever be the same again. Readers were first introduced to a much younger Louis in T.R Pearson's A Short History of a Small Place. When this long-awaited sequel, Glad News of the Natural World, opens, Louis is grown up and on his own in NYC. His father back home in Neely has pulled some strings and gotten Louis a job with Meridian Life and Casualty. In no time, though, young Louis' career as an executive trainee comes to ignominious end. Resourceful Louis, reluctant to tell folks back home about his urban failure, remains in the city and works as a glorified taxi driver for a Yemeni-owned car service, as a handyman for a Staten Island wise guy, and as a nearly invisible stage and screen actor. Throughout his bizarre careers, Louis the novel's narrator chronicles his strange and hilarious encounters with personalities who are even more entertaining than the eccentrics back in Neely.
Louis finds, however, that he cannot really separate himself from his Southern hometown. Although eager to continue his curious metamorphosis into a New Yorker, Louis returns regularly to Neely for weddings and funerals. Through his visits sometimes actual and sometimes imagined Louis, as suggested by the novel's title, undergoes a profound spiritual odyssey filled with humor, suffering and discovery. In his 10th novel, Pearson delivers a quirky view of the world in extraordinary ways: he deploys reinventions of meandering Proustian narration, serpentine Faulknerian sentences and sharp Swiftian satire. Readers who expect a simple tale of a good ol' boy in the big city will instead be surprised by Pearson's unique narrative style, chaotic plot structure and colorful characterizations. Though there are some imperfections in this uneven novel, readers nevertheless ought to enjoy Louis Benfield's kaleidoscopic adventures. Tim Davis teaches literature at the University of West Florida.