cover of book

The Book of Famous Iowans: A Novel
by Douglas Bauer
University of Iowa Press, 2014
Paper: 978-1-60938-266-7
Library of Congress Classification PS3552.A8358B66 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.54

Will Vaughn, a man of late middle age living in Chicago with his second wife, remembers the month of June 1957 in his hometown, the rural village of New Holland, Iowa. More precisely, Will remembers just a few days of that month and the quick sequence of astonishing events that have colored, ever since, the logic of his heart and the moods of his mind. He tells of his stunningly beautiful young mother, Leanne, who liked to recall the years of the Second World War, during which she sang with a dance band in a lounge in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He tells too of his father, Lewis, a soldier in the war who one night saw the “resplendently sequined” Leanne step onstage and began at that instant to plot his courtship of her.
But mostly what Will summons up in his intimate remembrance are those few catastrophic days in early June when he was “three months shy of twelve,” more than a decade after his parents have married and returned to the Vaughns’ home place, where Lewis farms his family’s land. For it is during those days that Leanne’s affair with a local man named Bobby Markum becomes known—first to Lewis and then, in a fiercely dramatic public confrontation, to young Will, to his beloved Grandmother Vaughn, and by nightfall to all the citizens of the town. The knowledge of such scandal, in so small a place, sets off a series of highly charged reactions, vivid consequences that surely determine the fates of every member of this unforgettable family.
A tale of memory and hero worship and the restless pulse of longing, The Book of Famous Iowans examines those forces that define not only a state made up of a physical geography, but more important, those states of the wholly human spirit.

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