Evers Wheeling, a North Carolina district court judge, seeks refuge from his increasingly unsatisfying job, failing marriage and self-destructive life of â€śboredom and beer and bourbon,â€ť in several ways. He takes long drives. He tends to his aquarium fish. He gets together with family and friends--mostly in un-Mayberrylike trailer-park parties with his anti-Opie brother, Pascal, and his equally pot-besotted pals.
Oh, and he accepts, from an enigmatic woman who inexplicably cries â€śalbino tears,â€ť a bribery-tinged invitation for a cross-country treasure hunt replete with twice-stolen loot, a mysterious letter, valuable postage stamps, a villainous antiques dealer and a whole lot of â€śbluffing and feinting and Boris and Natashaâ€ť doings that lead to his undoing. And a few otherâ€™s undoing as well: Back at home, Eversâ€™ adulterous wife, Jo Miller, has been found dead--thanks perhaps to some wish-fulfilling rituals at an ad-hoc â€śshrine of the white tears.â€ť It may be murder, and circumstances may implicate Pascal as well as Evers.
Or not. In The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, an uproarious and often touching novel from Virginia circuit court judge Martin Clark, things arenâ€™t always so clear-cut. Events zig where they should zag. The twists and turns have twists and turns. As an ever-confused Evers comments at one point, â€śComplications really complicate things.â€ť And a little connect-the-plots head-scratching is part of the fun of reading this ambitious book as it ricochets from comic novel to legal thriller to magical realism to love story to existential treatise, while Clark chaotically explores such issues as the nature and nurturing of love, and family and, especially, faith--which the main character, in a case of fate handing over Evers to chance, views as â€śpretty much a sightless, hopped-up, fervent guess.â€ť
Still, in keeping with Eversâ€™ contention that Jo Miller and Pascal are â€śthe two poles in his life,â€ť leaving out some of the unrelated and more dispensable kitchen-sink complications, loose ends and inconsequential incidentals would have made for a better-crafted and more cohesive book without necessarily detracting from its wide scope. The wild goose chase/ money-grab road trip to Salt Lake City, though developing a compelling a interracial love angle that softens the good â€™ol boy edges of Evers, proves to largely dilute the local Southern-gothic color. And the metaphysical leanings, characterized at one point as â€śsort of at the Jim-Jones-levitation-and-chants end of the spectrum,â€ť smacks more of paranoia than the paranormal, and could have been toned down for greater intrigue and allure.