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Lucky Strike
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Like the gold prospecting (18)49ers before them, the uranium prospectors in Utah a century later hoped to strike it rich. In her second novel (after The Metal Shredders), Zafris, fiction editor of the Kenyon Review, brings these adventurers and their quest to life through several zany characters. Young widow Jean Waterman and her two children, Beth and Charlie, set up camp in a rugged, remote area where water is in short supply and paved roads are nonexistent. Enter traveling salesman Harry Lindstrom, a latter-day Don Quixote who offers his services without expecting anything in return. In his truck, he's stocked every instrument, gadget, and accessory a prospector might ever need-including the Lucky Strike Geiger counter for which the book is named. The cast is rounded out by other colorful characters, including Leonard and Jo Dawson, basically squatters on the Watermans's campsite; Miss Dazzle, proprietor of the Stagecoach Oasis Motel; Jimmy Splendid, the Native American sheriff; and Vincent Flaherty, a smooth-talking con man. On one level, all of them are hoping to find uranium ore, doggedly diving into the blazing hot caves, reading old maps, and drawing up new ones; but on another, they are searching for answers to their problems. What a wild ride this book is. The characters are plucky, sympathetic, and memorable, the situations sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes bittersweet, and the pacing just right. Zafris is a keen observer of the human comedy; highly recommended for all libraries.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

With its cast of quirky Ohio scrap-metal workers, Zafris's first novel, The Metal Shredders (2002), revealed her talent for capturing an unfamiliar world; her second accomplishes a similar feat with uranium prospectors in Utah. It's 1954, and widowed Jean Waterman has brought her two children west, hoping that the desert air will soothe the weak lungs of her son, Charlie, and that the desert's soil will yield treasures of uranium. She meets Harry, an ex-Mormon traveling salesman who deals in Geiger counters and other prospecting paraphernalia; Jo Dawson, the girlish wife of a good-for-nothing lout determined to spend his last pennies in a quest for uranium; Miss Dazzle, the people person proprietress of the Stagecoach Oasis motel and a host of colorful folk. In the lonely Utah desert, the wanderers form an unlikely family; there are loves, loyalties and secrets, though nothing much happens. Harry falls in love with Jean and Jo and worries that polygamy is in his genes; Miss Dazzle's cheerful personality hides a deeper loneliness. In this lovely book, Zafris finds power in the slow, mute strangeness of everyday anxiety, the blossoming of hope in a barren desert and the terrible irony of what uranium means to those who seek it. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Zafris's dry sense of humor runs through the story, a counterpoint to the poignancy of Charlie's illness, the desperation of the uranium seekers, and the not-yet-understood danger of radiation poisoning. The sinister, thrilling mushroom cloud of the bomb casts its shadow over everything. 'Lucky Strike" is a quirky novel that rewards careful reading."--The Boston Globe "What a wild ride this book is. The characters are plucky, sympathetic, and memorable, the situations sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes bittersweet, and the pacing just right. Zafris is a keen observer of the human comedy."--LIBRARY JOURNAL, STARRED "Comic and darkly ironic."--Southwest Book Views "Likable and thought-provoking...another winner."--THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER "Laced with quiet tongue-in-cheek humor and told from multiple viewpoints, the adventures of this quirky cast of characters makes for a warmhearted, entertaining read."--THE DENVER POST "Funny and touching."--PAGES MAGAZINE "Zafris' writing lets emotions and memories penetrate each other the way they do in ordinary thought, though seldom in fiction. Sometimes you have to go back and see what's really being said...Yet each of Zafris' sentences is as sharp-edged as a miner's pick, and to have to reread one occasionally is a pleasure."--FORT LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL "All learn that love and friendship endure beyond fortune. In Zafris' disturbing and ironic novel, the universe operates under skies where the laws of atomic energy are highly visible...[the ending] haunts long after the reader puts the book down."--THE OREGONIAN "Eerie...[a] noir-tinged adventure story...One could read Lucky Strike as a historical portrait of a time and place. All the realistic details, though, reverberate with unsettling implications. The characters don't know how poisonous their environment is, but readers know -- and dread the future effects on the characters of the uranium they long to find."--THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH "The strength of Lucky Strike is thanks in part to its quirky cast of characters... These characters...come together in an age of innocence, before humans fully understood the effects of radiation. They pool their strengths and offset each other's weaknesses as they work towards the common goal of hitting a lucky strike...This was a book of many fascinating layers...I cared about the characters and their individual fates. That's what good writing is all about."--MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW "Her gift is blending unique characters with vivid settings."--The Winston-Salem Journal

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