Author(s): Philipp Meyer
Derek writes: Although there is a death at the beginning of this book and there is a crime investigation it is definitely not a crime novel. Set among the rust belt of Pennsylvania, where in a short period in the late 1970s 150,000 men lost their jobs due to closure of the steel mills, it's really a story about the loss of the American dream. It revolves around two young men, childhood friends, but as different as chalk and cheese. Isaac, no bigger than a child with an IQ practically off the scale, and Billy Poe, fast enough to win a football scholarship and big enough to play pro. Their fate is sealed when Isaac steals $4000 from his aging father and sets out for California where he knows he'll be accepted into an astrophysics program. Poe is trapped by indecision, still living with his separated mother in a trailer, unable to take the single step that will also set him free from the Monongahela River Valley. Poe agrees to walk with Isaac as far as the railway line, but in a harrowing opening scene they encounter three homeless men, a fight breaks out, and although Isaac scampers away Billy Poe has never run from a fight in his life, and one of the men is killed. As Isaac continues his journey to California, Poe is banged up in a brutal State Prison, which he reasons is where he belongs, and so steadfastly refuses to admit guilt or to say anything which might clear his name. Unaware of this Isaac continues on, his imagination and intelligence failing to make up for his lack of street smarts as he rides the trains just as his forebears did in the Great Depression. The characters are perfectly drawn, Isaac's ailing father and his beautiful sister Lee; Poe's mother Grace - worn out from years of just struggling through life and Bud Harris, the over-worked, understaffed local cop who is just trying to hang on until his retirement. It's a magnificent book in so many ways. Underlying the whole story is the hopelessness of all the players. Even Lee, who escaped the valley when Isaac and her mother died, is trapped in a loveless marriage, and despite having married into money, her cage is as tightly locked as the people who still live in the shuttered towns of the valley. Lee's isolation reflects that of the other key characters, Grace alone in her trailer, Bud Harris living alone in his mountain cabin, Poe in prison and Isaac on the road. It's also a novel of hope and redemption, of how people cope with catastrophic change and the lengths we would all go to if we had to save a child. I don't normally agree with anything Patricia Cornwell says, but she thinks Philipp Meyer will win the Pulitzer, and I think she might be right.
Philipp Meyer has been a James Michener Fellow in Fiction and has had stories published in McSweeneys, The Iowa Review and New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 2007. 'One Day This Will All Be Yours' was selected by Edward P. Jones for the anthology Best American Short Stories: 2007 where it received an Honourable Mention.