The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: A Novel

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: A Novel

by Brady Udall


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"An ingenious tale [that] takes its heart from Dickens and its soul from America’s great outlaw West." —Elle

Half Apache and mostly orphaned, Edgar Presley Mint’s trials begin on an Arizona reservation at the age of seven, when the mailman’s jeep accidentally runs over his head. As he is shunted from the hospital to a school for delinquents to a Mormon foster family, comedy, pain, and trouble accompany Edgar through a string of larger-than-life experiences. Through it all, readers will root for this irresistible innocent who never truly loses heart and whose quest for the mailman leads him to an unexpected home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393341645
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/09/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 305,859
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Brady Udall is the author of New York Times bestseller The Lonely Polygamist, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and Letting Loose the Hounds. He teaches at Boise State University and lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and children.

Read an Excerpt

If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close.

With these words Edgar Mint, half-Apache and mostly orphaned, makes his unshakable claim on our attention. In the course of Brady Udall’s high-spirited, inexhaustibly inventive novel, Edgar survives not just this bizarre accident, but a hellish boarding school for Native American orphans, a well-meaning but wildly dysfunctional Mormon foster-family, and the loss of most of the illusions that are supposed to make life bearable.

What persists is Edgar’s innate goodness, his belief in the redeeming power of language, and his determination to find and forgive the man who almost killed him. The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint is a miracle of storytelling, bursting with heartache and hilarity and inhabited by characters as outsized as the landscape of the American West.

Table of Contents

Saint Divine's11
Willie Sherman97
Stony Run389

Reading Group Guide

1. “If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close; my careening, zigzag existence, my wounded brain and faith in God, my collisions with joy and affliction, all of it has come, in one way or another, out of that moment on a summer morning when the left rear tire of a United States postal jeep ground my tiny head into the hot gravel of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation” [p.13]. How does the novel’s opening paragraph—and more broadly its opening chapter—work to draw the reader into the story? How does the immediacy of the first-person narration affect the reader’s involvement with Edgar and his story?

2. Edgar’s mother doesn’t even get up from the kitchen table when he is run over by the mail truck [p. 16]. Why is Edgar so forgiving of her, even though she abandons him and effectively kills herself with alcohol? Does she provoke any sympathy in the reader?

3. Edgar’s father is a young white man from Connecticut who has come west in the hope of becoming a cowboy. Is it surprising that Edgar never meets or even tries to find his real father? Which characters take on parental roles in his life?

4. On arriving at Willie Sherman, Edgar overhears Principal Whipple say, “The last thing I need right now is another goddamn orphan without any paperwork.” In response to hearing the word “orphan, ” Edgar thinks, “It comforted me to understand my place in the world, to put a name to it” [p. 107]. Is it useful to see The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint as anexample of the classic genre of orphan novels, like Dickens’ Great Expectations? How loosely or tightly structured is The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint? What are the driving forces behind the novel’s plot?

5. What is the effect of the chapter called “Edgar Gets It, ” which is Edgar’s and the reader’s introduction to life at Willie Sherman. Why are violence and sadism so casual here? What effect does the school have on Edgar’s behavior? What changes does he make in himself in order to survive?

6. Edgar is “obsessed with memory, with facts, with history on the smallest scale” [p. 14]. He makes daily use of the typewriter Art has given him. What does language do for Edgar? Why is it so necessary for him to write down what happens to him?

7. What does Edgar’s friendship with Cecil mean to him? If thinking about and writing to Cecil have become some of Edgar’s few emotional lifelines, what is the significance of the events that occur when he makes his visit to the juvenile detention center [pp. 301–309]?

8. Note that Udall’s use of narrative point of view often switches between first and third person [see, for instance, the first two paragraphs on page 215]. Why does he choose to do this? Who is telling the story?

9. What does Sterling Yakezevitch represent to Edgar? Why does Edgar say to himself, “I was just like Sterling Yakezevitch. I knew it, but nobody else seemed to” [p. 193]? What is the significance of “the jumping place” for Edgar and for Sterling?

10. Udall does a superb job of incorporating the landscape of the West into the story. What are the scenes in which the landscape plays an important role? How does the landscape affect the moods and meanings of the novel? Is there any significance to the fact that Edgar ends up in Pennsylvania, far from his Apache homeland?

11. How well does Edgar fit into the Madsen family? Does he have a chance for happiness there? Why does he leave, and is he right to do so?

12. Barry Pinkley’s role in the story evolves over the course of Edgar’s life. Edgar says, “Like Dr. Frankenstein who gave the monster life, I think Barry felt a kind of ownership toward me, a responsibility” [p. 25]. Does Barry’s history as a foster child explain his behavior? Edgar also says, “Barry was a mystery to me . . . I knew that he loved me, in his own way, more than anyone in my life ever had” [p. 347]. Despite Barry’s constant attention and love, why does Edgar reject him as a possible adoptive parent? What compels Edgar to perform his ultimate act of rejection? Is it shocking or unsurprising that he does so?

13. Edgar says, “God was out there. He had touched me and I had felt His presence, which was more than I could say about my own father.” But he also believes that “either God was a crazed lunatic or He was just plain mean” [p. 311]. How important is religion in this novel?

14. Edgar is a child with no home and almost no belongings. What particular objects take on meaning for him? What is the significance of the objects that are given and received in friendship in this story? What is the significance of his trunk?

15. How significant for Edgar’s story is the fact that he is half Apache? What does the novel tell us about racial discrimination and its effect on Native Americans? How interested is Udall in bringing the reader’s attention to the problems bequeathed to the Native American population?

16. There is much in The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint that is bleak—suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, physical suffering, emotional deprivation. Which aspects or episodes of the novel are the most difficult for the reader from an emotional perspective? How does Udall manage to keep the mood so light, comical, and life-affirming?

17. Apart from his brilliance as an inventor of character and plot, what aspects of Udall’s writing style are most impressive? Are there particular sentences or paragraphs that are especially moving, effective, or funny?

18. Edgar’s lifelong quest is to relieve the postman of guilt, to bring him the good news of his survival. “I imagined him with his white skin, his orange hair and blue uniform . . . transformed in an instant from a man twisted inside out with guilt and grief to someone struck with the realization that our worst mistakes can be retrieved, that death can be traded in for life, that what has been destroyed can be made whole again” [p. 312]. Why does Udall deny him this wish? Is finding a long-lost mother in Rosa a good enough substitute for his original wish? What are the ironies of the novel’s ending?

Customer Reviews

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Miracle Life Of Edgar Mint 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a fabulous book that I could just not put down! It gives a fabulous escape into the world of this poor, spunky, adolescent. Edgar's life is so tragic, yet Udall puts it in a way that is humorous and admirable. Udall proves he truly is a genius with this work. I fell in love with Edgar and looked forward to seeing where is miracle life would take him. It was a joy to turn every page- I last read it over a year ago, and I am still raving to everyone about it. In short, it is just a feel-good novel. It makes you happier when you close the pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this awesome book right after finishing 'The Secret Life of Bees,' and I would love to write a story wherein Lily and Edgar meet one day and compare notes. The two novels, at first read, seem at opposite ends of the literary spectrum. Yet when I finished 'Edgar,' I was struck by the parallel themes of young lives frought with trial and tribulation, yet imbued with inner cores of strength, determination, hope, wisdom, and humor! Neither Edgar nor Lily give up their quest to get back 'home,' even if home is someplace they don't yet know, and that has been there all along. Absolutely fantastic!! I'm a bookseller at a B&N store and put it on my 'Staff Recommends' shelf. It sold out very quickly!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'A patient of mine recommended this book. It sat on my shelf for about 2 years as it is not the normal type of book I read. I picked it up 3 days ago and I wish I had picked it up sooner. What a pleasant surprise. The story will take you through a gamet of emotions: sadness, anger, frustration, and joy. At times I laughed out loud and at other times my eyes welled up with tears. The story of Edgar makes us appreciate what we all have. The author did a good job of portraying the strength of the human spirit. I don't read a lot of John Irving but other reviews I've read have compared Udall's writing to Irving. If you're a fan of Irving you might want to give Udall a try.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I definately recommend this book! It is a bittersweet journey of a boy to manhood and although there are many sad parts throughout the story, the ending makes it well worth the time you spend reading it.
EPO More than 1 year ago
I read The Lonely Polygamist by Udall and really liked it, so I was excited to read this novel. It was a good read, could be funny at times, but did seem to drag on a little. Not my favorite, but pretty good over all.
edko More than 1 year ago
I'm puzzled by some of the negative reviews stating that all Edgar does is get abused, not really, but the abuse is seen through the eyes of Edgar, whose innate goodness sees things in such touching and hysterical ways. A great story by a world class storyteller. Cant recommend this book any higher 4000 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Edgar Mint was a half- Indian boy growing up during the 1960s and 1970s. As a young child, his head had been run over by a mail truck but he miraculously survived and still had a fully functioning brain. Edgar's childhood and adolescence following this incident are what make the story so original. How he goes from attending a rough boarding school to living with a Mormon family is truly one of a kind. Not to mention that there is a shocker at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the most interesting and entertaining I've read in a long, long time. Sometimes it made me laugh out loud. Other times it made me squirm. The experiences Edgar goes through during his life and the way he handles them will keep you riveted from beginning to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully written story. I laughed and cried through his adventures. It was definitely a page turner!
Guest More than 1 year ago
All I can say is I'm glad I didn't actually buy this book. Yes, there were a few funny parts but for the most part, it was a terrible, depressing story of abuse to a young man not able to defend himself well. The real problem I have with this book is that it went on and on, chapter after chapter describing the abuse poor Edgar had to endure. Mr. Udall, I think we could've gotten the idea after one chapter. This is where I chucked the book. I know, I know, it may have had a very happy ending but I wasn't willing to go through torture myself to get to it. At least the book went into my recycle bin and will do the earth some good in some way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was fun meeting Edgar and spending time with him. I'll miss him. Not often is it that you find a character as comfortable with which to spend time...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful read. The characters are beautifully drawn. The scenes are very well set. Edgar Mint is an unforgettable character. This book is by turns hilarious, sad, uplifting, tragic, and inspiring. Not since Dickens has there been such a wonderful orphan-hero.
Anonymous 3 months ago
One of the best stories with a colorful cast of characters. A story of the perserveirence of both the horrors and simple joys as seen through the eyes of a cnild.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint is about the difficulty of identity: self-identity versus group identity versus the need to "fit in" somewhere. This motif is realized in a very real way on the first page: after Edgar's head was run over by a mail truck, he can no longer remember anything before the accident. But, more abstractly, the question of memory and the tension between holding on and growing up in the search for self-identity remains an issue throughout the book. Edgar's hybrid identity - half-white, half-Apache - makes him the outsider among both groups. His family tree is poorly mapped out, with many family members missing or indifferent to Edgar's life. So he gets shuffled around and makes the best of a bad situation.Edgar's voice is one of the strongest and most coherent I've ever heard in a novel. Plus, in places the book is just funny. Here's an excerpt, Edgar's encounter with a bully:"Resting all his weight on my chest, Clint struck a thoughtful pose. 'Hmm. I guess we'll give you the typewriter. Do you know what the typewriter is, Geronimo?'I tried to explain that I had a typewriter of my very own, a Hermes Jubilee 2000, in fact, but Clint didn't seem interested. He grabbed both my ears and twisted them, making a racheting mechanical noise deep in his throat. 'See?' he said. 'I'm feeding in the paper. Get it? Typewriter?'....Every once in a while, he would call out ding! - the sound of the carriage reaching its end - and would give me a solid slap on the face as if to return the carriage to its proper position. It did seem that Clint knew his way around a typewriter."See? Funny, even if I should feel bad for enjoying that passage. The book takes up a lot of serious issues - child neglect, racial tensions, failed marriages, drug abuse - but it cuts the tension with dry humor and Edgar's charm. It was a pleasure and a lot of fun to read this book, to grow up alongside Edgar and cheer him on.
LivelyLady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting but kind of rambling.
justablondemoment on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books that keep me rolling in waves of different emotions. I laughed, cried, cheered ect. Edgar will steal your heart as you go thru his life from a young boy to adulthood. Highly recommend!!!
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Edgar Mint is a character that you will fall in love with. After having been run over by a mailman's jeep and surviving, Edgar's life is a series of scenes reminiscent of Dickens and, as others have mentioned, Owen Meany's. This book is darkly funny at times and Edgar is truly engaging. I must admit, though, that I found the multiple scenes of violence at Willie Sherman School a bit too much -- I literally counted the pages 'til edgar (and I) could leave that behind.Well written with a subtle sense of humour. Brady Udall is becojing one of my favourite authors.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿You don¿t know about the tooth fairy,¿ he said, shooting me the skeptical eye. ¿All right,¿ he sighed, ¿the tooth fairy. This is the fairy that lifts up your pillow in the middle of the night and takes your tooth. She collects teeth, you know, for some reason¿¿¿What¿s a fairy?¿¿It¿s like this little old lady with wings who flies around.¿¿The lady has wings?¿¿Well, she¿s not exactly real, like me or you, she just floats. I think.¿¿Like a ghost?¿ I didn¿t want to have anything to do with a ghost who floated around lifting up pillows.Art struggled to keep his voice down. ¿She¿s not a ghost. She¿s nice, dangit. She¿s a fairy.¿Thus Edgar describes the sometimes funny, often horrific day to day events of his life in Brady Udall¿s coming of age story, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. Edgar, an unloved, unwanted half-breed Apache boy, lives through one disaster after another. His tale, jumping back and forth between first person and third, begins on the reservation on which he was born. From there he spends many months in hospital, and then moves on to an appalling boarding school for Native Americans, which takes only those that nobody else will have. He eventually goes on to live with a dysfunctional Mormon foster family in Utah, and then finally finds a home in Pennsylvania. Along the way Udall introduces us to a host of quirky and memorable characters. Udall¿s debut novel is both surprising and engaging
RachelPenso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The very first line of this book explains it pretty well: "If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head."Edgar is the half-Apache son of an alcoholic mother and an absent father. The book goes on to tell about Edgar's life in the hospital after his accident, a Native American boarding school and a Mormon foster family.
kelawrence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was great and the first that I have read by this author - everyone else who loved this book and wrote a review was right - there are times when you laugh out loud and can totally identify with this character. At points the book switches between the first and third person, but not so much as to confuse the reader. Would certainly search out another title by this author.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint has some interesting characters and vividly brutal scenes, but that alone isn't enough to make a novel. In the end, Brady Udall just isn't able to come up with a strong enough plot to hold his story together.
rfewell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this for a book club that I facilitated at my first Librarian job.
jules72653 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a long time to read this book even though I found it enjoyable. I loved the character of Cecil who would pick up litter wherever he went. The last few chapters were riveting and I read well into the wee hours to finish.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A truly intriguing novel. A great look at life of those affected by horrific tragedy. Edgar faces so much adversity and loss in his life," he even loses his illusions that make people lives bearable." This novel is great storytelling; filled with humor and heartache. It is filled with quirky characters from Dr. Barry Pinkley to Art Crozier, to Edgar himself. I great read and a great book for bookclubs.
pippi-longstockings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sad. Unbelievably sad. The ending is positive but the book is sad at times to read. Not depressing sad however as Udall writes with humour mixed in. A very touching book.