Enter the distinctly off-kilter world of Don "Wendell" Brush, an unemployed Tennessee electrician with a penchant for throwing back a few beers before lunch. Mary, his long-suffering wife of seven years, has left him -- or is trying to. Heartsick at the thought of losing her, Don beats her out the door, reasoning that if he leaves, Mary will have to stay behind in their ramshackle house to take care of their dog and cat. On the strength of this logic, Don finds himself out on the street with only his decrepit old truck, the shirt on his back, and nothing to do but avoid home.
Approximately Heaven is a marvelously rambunctious debut, by turns melancholy and uproarious, about one hapless man's pursuit of happiness -- or at least another six-pack -- preferably both. The novel charts Don's amiably clumsy attempts to improve his situation, beginning with his decision to take a road trip with his friend Dove Ellender -- a retired, chain-drinking ex-felon with emphysema -- to Mississippi to deliver some furniture. Or maybe there's something besides furniture in the trailer behind Dove's leaky half-ton green-and-white 1969 Ford truck, but Don isn't asking and Dove's not telling.
Will Don find his heaven -- or something close to it? Will Mary give him another chance (his fourth, actually)? If heaven is a house that is square, level, and plumb -- with a loving family inside -- then for Don, even a sober hope of these things would be enough
In the course of his hero's grand misadventures, prizewinning short-story writer James Whorton traverses the broken white line between the absurd and the desperately poignant. Fans of Richard Russo will want to raise a glass -- or at least crack open a can of Natural Light.
Featuring an endearingly flawed protagonist, dead-perfect dialogue, and a mordant eye for small-town southern life, Approximately Heaven is about the paradise we long for and the approximations for which we settle. It heralds the arrival of a major -- and heaven-sent -- new literary talent.