Book Review: Presidio by Randy Kennedy

Author: Randy Kennedy
Read By: George Newbern
Reading Level: Adult Fiction
Genres: Mystery | Suspense | Thrillers
Released: August 21st 2018
Review Source: Simon & Schuster Audio

Set in the 1970s in the vast and arid landscape of the Texas panhandle, this darkly comic and stunningly mature literary debut tells the story of a car thief and his brother who set out to recover some stolen money and inadvertently kidnap a Mennonite girl who has her own reasons for being on the run.

Troy Falconer returns home after years of working as a solitary car thief to help his younger brother, Harlan, search for his wife, who has run away with the little money he had. When they steal a station wagon for the journey, the brothers accidentally kidnap Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl asleep in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together these unlikely road companions attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha’s vengeful father.

The story is told partly through Troy’s journal, in which he chronicles his encounters with con artists, down-and-outers, and roadside philosophers, people looking for fast money, human connection, or a home long since vanished. The journal details a breakdown that has left Troy unable to function in conventional society; he is reduced to haunting motels, stealing from men roughly his size, living with their possessions in order to have none of his own and all but disappearing into their identities.

With a page-turning plot about a kidnapped child, gorgeously written scenes that probe the soul of the American West, and an austere landscape as real as any character, Presidio packs a powerful punch of anomie, dark humor, pathos, and suspense.

Presidio is the story of a car thief named Troy who is returning home to help his brother Harlan track someone down. Turns out Harlan’s wife has run off with all of his money, and Troy feels an obligation to help out after years of being off on his own. I enjoyed getting to know Troy through his journal entries mixed into the book. It is a bit strange to remember that there was a time without surveillance everyone and someone could just hop from motel to motel, stealing cars and clothes and whatever else. The descriptions of the small towns in the Texas desert were so vivid and accurate I felt like I was back in one. 

I felt the story was very well written and moved right along, and I really enjoyed it as an audio book. The narrator, George Newbern, has just a hint of a Texas accent, which sounded perfect for the characters. There was enough of a difference in each character voice to tell them apart as well. I was a little sad when the story was over as I wanted it to just keep going.

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