The Great American Desert (Hardcover)


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Set in the Midwest, by the banks of the Mississippi, it is a novel about life and love, a look at how we are connected to those around us, an exploration of time and history, a story of finding a way back home. Antony Munchner, a farmboy, an orphan, an historian by avocation, has become stuck in the eddies of a backwater. The river of time flows on past him while he searches for a way to rejoin the stream.

“What do you know for sure?” say the denizens of Jersey County, Illinois when they see each other on the street, and one of the many things that Antony does not know for sure is whom his father named him after. All he does know is that it was for someone historical, and his guess is that it was for St. Antony of Egypt, also an orphan, who left the world behind almost two thousand years ago, and went and lived in the middle of the desert.

Antony Munchner is headed for a hermitage in the desert, too, until the ties of family and community call him back, and he falls once more under the spell of those everyday events, and of the talk that goes with them, and of the wise and mysterious Hilary Krieger, the brown-eyed girl next door who has a grand passion for an old-fashioned dance called the waltz.

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1 review for The Great American Desert (Hardcover)

  1. Anna

    When I first read The Great American Desert I had been for some time on a school-related forced sabbatical from fiction. I had become more used to technical writing, and to reading for information. This novel is anything but straightforward, and initially I wasn’t sure what to think and yet I certainly enjoyed the read. What struck me only much later was how certain elements and characters in the story had somehow stuck with me in such a way that they felt like my own memories rather than something that happened in a book.

    In subsequent and more leisurely readings of the book I find I appreciate Mr. Kruse’s story telling more and more. The story is quite simple enough; Antony Munchner leaves his land and people behind to go and live in the desert (that is, the city), hoping to find the sorts of things that all of us are looking for. In the end, he finds closure (with his dad’s death) among other things) only when he has come home again, and is where he belongs.

    But Mr. Kruse doesn’t just give you a story. He takes it apart and then weaves it together again in an unusual way (you don’t for instance find out the protagonists name until page 51). The story is a seemingly rambling tale filled with subtle references and disjointed pieces of history that comes together in the end as Antony finds himself in the here and now. And then you realize that perhaps it wasn’t really ever about the story in the first place, but about the journey.

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