Nickel MountainJohn Gardner
John Gardner's most poignant novel of improbable love.
At the heart of John Gardner's Nickel Mountain is an uncommon love story: when at 42, the obese, anxious and gentle Henry Soames marries seventeen-year-old Callie Wells — who is pregnant with the child of a local boy — it is much more than years which define the gulf between them. But the beauty of this novel is the gradual revelation of the bond that develops as this unlikely couple experiences courtship and marriage, the birth of a son, isolation, forgiveness, work, and death in a small Catskill community in the 1950s. The plot turns on tragic events — they might be accidents or they might be acts of will — involving a cast of rural eccentrics tha includes a lonely amputee veteran, a religious hysteric (thought by some to be the devil himself) and an itinerant "Goat Lady." Questions of guilt, innocence, and even murder are eclipsed by deeds of compassion, humility, and redemption, and ultimately by Henry Soames' quiet discovery of grace.
Novelist William H. Gass, a friend and colleague of the author, has written an introduction that shines new light on the work and career of the much praised but often misunderstood John Gardner (this introduction can be found in the book published by New Directions).
John Champlin Gardner, Jr. (1933–1982) was a well-known and controversial American novelist and university professor, best known for his novel Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf myth.
John Gardner's best known novels include: The Sunlight Dialogues, a novel about a brooding, disenchanted policeman who is asked to engage a madman fluent in classical mythology; Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf legend from the monster's point of view; and October Light, a novel about an aging and embittered brother and sister living and feuding together in rural Vermont. This last novel won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1976. Each book features brutish, isolated figures struggling for integrity and understanding in an unforgiving society.