William T. Goodman’s debut novel takes us on a mesmerizing journey of linked narratives that speak to the richness and rawness of the human experience. Through unusual circumstances, three unlikely and uniquely different people come together in the small desert community of Lunden, Arizona. All three are products of their turbulent pasts, possessing deep flaws as well as remarkable qualities. The bond they form is of the intensity most people are lucky to experience once in a lifetime, if ever.
Tom is a forty-one-year-old college professor from Kingston, New York. He teaches English Literature as does his wife. With their marriage crumbling, Tom takes a sabbatical to reevaluate his life. He is brilliant, but often socially awkward. Seeking a completely new environment in which to sort himself out, he finds Lunden, Arizona. Tom’s immense intellect and personal evolution drive the novel forward.
Mae is a thirty-nine-year-old accountant and part time singer from Tennessee. She married her high school sweetheart soon after graduation. The marriage ends tragically, but Mae puts herself through college and then leaves Tennessee behind. Some years later, after quitting an accounting job in Tucson, Mae’s car overheats on a back road leading to the Grand Canyon. Without cell phone service, she is stranded until a Native American in an open yellow Jeep happens by, arranges for a tow and brings her to Lunden, Arizona.
Joseph is a twenty-nine-year-old part-Crow Indian from Montana. Soon after his birth Joseph’s single, teenage mother abandons him and leaves the state. Her older sister and white husband raise Joseph on their ranch. He is educated away from the reservation, and after college graduation, the young and idealistic Joseph returns to the reservation of his birth to teach high school. His optimism quickly changes to disillusionment and then disappears altogether when a violent altercation in the classroom ends his teaching career. Joseph leaves Montana for a warmer climate where he intends to lead a solitary, primal existence. He rents a simple house in the desert outside Lunden, Arizona.
As the small desert town of Lunden gradually reveals its darker underbelly of sex, violence and racism, the novel’s realism intimately captivates us. With diverse characters brought to life through a mixture of sometimes emotional, humorous, moving, shocking and heartbreakingly tragic developments as well as flashback revelations, Desert Sundays unfolds like an ingenious jigsaw puzzle.
Propelled toward an explosive finale, the novel compels us to reexamine concepts of legal versus moral justice, loyalty, degrees of personal loss, prejudice and even the possibility of metaphysical predetermination. Desert Sundays strikingly showcases the complexities of contemporary America, and with masterful insight, the novel vividly captures life’s intensity, touching our hearts, our hopes and our fears.
“My mother used to tell me that we are all born pulling a cart. As life progresses we fill the cart with our experiences – some good, some bad. This becomes our baggage cart. Certain people use it to build fortunes and empires, while others are crushed under the weight of their own baggage and never create anything.” - Joseph Curly of Desert Sundays -