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Book Review: Erased by Jim Krusoe

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Erased, by Jim Krusoe, is a story of life, death, and Cleveland. Some elements are amusing while others are baffling, and some characters talk so much it can try one's patience. Nonetheless, if you're up for a surreal and metaphysical journey, Erased might be right up your alley.
Theodore Bellefontaine is a mild-mannered salesman of mail-order garden implements. He grew up an orphan, since his father died before his birth and his mother Helen abandoned him as a toddler (well, sort of gave him to a neighbor to raise) when she lit out for Cleveland. She hardly kept in touch until she turns up where Ted is living as he approaches middle age. An accommodating type, Ted begins a relationship with his mom, who turns out to be a no-nonsense transcriptionist with a passion for fly fishing and beer.
One night Helen calls him on the phone, uncharacteristically upset over a chance encounter with a strange man who implied she was dead instead of alive. Soon afterword, she disappears, and several weeks later, Ted receives a clipping from the Cleveland Plain Dealer describing his mother's death by drowning in a local fishing pond.
Ted is saddened by her passing, but since his connection to his mother was rather tenuous, he recovers quickly. When he later receives a postcard from her, saying he'd better get himself to Cleveland, he thinks she must have sent it before her death and ignores it. Then he receives a second, which he heeds, and off to Cleveland he goes. Not knowing if she is really dead or still alive, Ted attempts to locate Helen there aided by an odd assortment of fellow travelers, from an ex-con female biker to a porn shop clerk. His adventures are even more odd than the company he keeps as he stays on his mother's trail, discovering more about Helen, Cleveland and its environs, and himself.
The characters and dialog in Erased are out-and-out eccentric and bring to mind the classic A Confederacy of Dunces. I especially enjoyed Helen's voice and was disappointed when it disappeared from the novel for an extended period. The city of Cleveland is a character in itself that changes over time from luminous to threatening (although Ted does not appear to be upset by this eventuality). Through it all overhangs the question whether the barrier between life and death can be crossed. Does the famed tunnel of light go both ways? You'll just have to read Erased to find out.
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About Nancy Fontaine

Nancy Fontaine is a librarian and freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, two cats, and every four years during presidential primary season, the national press.