The Law of Falling Bodies
by Duff Brenna
Hopewell Publications

"The body becomes a pillow on legs. The pillow runs into the fence. It bounces off."

On a family farm in Minnesota, it’s 1969, the year Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, Charles Manson murdered Sharon Tate, the Vietnam War slaughtered thousands, the U.S. Government began its slow strangulation of the family farm, and 14-year-old Virgil Francis Foggy struggles to become a man. Virgil, an intuitive, imaginative boy-farmer with an eclectic streak of the Holy Ghost, needs a strong male to guide him to adulthood. What he has instead are letters from a brother in Vietnam; a dying, powerless grandfather; a dead father; and a love-hate relationship with his sadistic bully of a stepfather/uncle, an alcoholic, farm-hating ex-marine who married his brother’s wife. To save himself and the century-old family farm, Virgil must fight his stepfather and his own fears of failure armed only with the questionable alliance of his grandmother, his preoccupied mother and his disturbed teenaged cousin/stepsister.

Crippling and unexpected setbacks besiege Virgil. Tension mounts toward a life-or-death decision that expels him completely from innocence and childhood and determines the path of his life as a man.

A brilliant storyteller, Brenna’s style is gritty and sparse yet poetic. Severed chicken heads are “candy for cats” and a stunted shadow becomes “a gnarled dwarf climbing Pappy’s legs.” His unblinking and graphic portrayal of farm life and bullies (Brenna was once a dairy farmer and a criminal) makes this book an apt choice for fans of John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy. Brenna is an award-winning novelist and Professor Emeritus at California State University, San Marcos.

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