The Average Human: A Novel

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MacAdam/Cage Pub., 2003 - Fiction - 260 pages
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Every small town in America has one: the family whose daughters are perpetually pregnant and whose sons go directly from the eleventh grade to the county lock-up. In the town of Loomis, in rural New York, that family is the Mayborns. Long haunted by accusations of incest and infanticide, the Mayborns have become a tribal clan of pariahs, with a roster of monstrosities attached to their name. June Mayborn, a fourteen-year-old with a preternatural sense of smell and a dubious code of morals, has an affair with a married candy-store owner. When the affair sours, June sets a deadly fire, accidentally killing an elderly man who had, over a decade before, established a cult-like commune in the foothills of Loomis. The subsequent funeral draws the beautiful and capricious Iris Utter, whose two-year-old son went missing from Loomis eight years earlier. Both Iris and her somber sixteen-year-old daughter, Lee, embark upon a dangerous and disturbing relationship with the Mayborns, which will both ravage and redeem their lives. When I was a child, my family rented a cabin in rural upstate New York, and down the road lived a family of local pariahs. Tales of their alleged misdeeds ranged from petit larceny to incest to murder, turning them into a band of provincial monsters. And, as if to cinch the case against them, all the daughters in the family had fingernails that were black and twisted, as though corruption sprouted directly from their fingertips. They kept to themselves, the girls bearing a disturbing shell-shocked look in their pale eyes, until they all simply picked up and left one day without a word, providing the town with yet more fodder for gossip. Only later, when I wrote about thefictional Mayborns, a much fiercer version of this real-life family, did I wonder about their aura of impending doom. Had they simply become trapped within the town's collective fiction of them, or were they truly a monstrous second cousin to the average human? For me, my first novel, The Average Human, will always be associated with schlepping bowls of pad thai, since I wrote the bulk of it while I waitressed in a Thai restaurant. Another waitress at the restaurant was also writing a novel, and together we made a pact to exchange at least two pages of writing every day. We kept the storylines and the characters alive by speculating about them endlessly, in between hauling plates of curried chicken or while we were polishing silverware. I'm sure we annoyed the hell out of the rest of the wait staff, but we finished our novels within months of each other. And we were each other's constant reminder that we were writers, not waitresses, despite the peanut sauce stains on our shirtsleeves. The Average Human is vivid, flawlessly written, and perfectly constructed. It's easy to remember whole passages at a time, because they instantly take root in your imagination. Ellen is the type of writer that readers will clamor for more of as soon as they finish this book.--P.W.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

The lives of several generations of an outcast family in a small town in upstate New York.All across the country you'll find places like Loomis, where the favored pastimes seem to be family feuds ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Ellen Potter is the author of books including "The Kneebone Boy", "Slob", "Pish Posh", and "Olivia Kidney". With Anne Mazer she is also the author of "Spilling Ink: A Young Writer s Handbook". Potter grew up in a high-rise apartment building in New York City s Upper West Side, where she exercised her early creativity by making up stories about the neighbors she saw on the elevator. When she was 11 years old, she realized all the best books were written for people her age, and so she decided to become a children s book author. She studied creative writing at Binghamton University, and then worked many different jobs while continuing to write. She was a dog groomer, construction worker, art teacher, and waitress. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, son and a motley assortment of badly behaved animals.

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