The Fruit of Stone, by Mark Spragg.
To categorize Mark Spragg’s novel as a literary western may sound incongruous, but I can’t describe it any other way. Spragg mixes the gritty, down-to-earth language and life of ranchers with almost poetic prose. It weaves through the story and, when basic words appear, they are almost a shock, like a slap in the face or a bucket of frigid water. His characters are complex, a little bizarre. The flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood are an intricate part of the story and make us understand who the protagonist, McEban, has become.
The story is simple: two friends who are in love with the same woman, one of whom is married to her. When she leaves her husband, they start a trek to find her.
There’s a sense of dislocation in Spragg’s novel, between past and present, love and friendship, male and female, need and want. Both sides pull at the reader, while at the same time push us to continue reading, to find out if McEban will find, if not happiness, as least fulfillment.
If I had only one criticism, it would be that the frienship between McEban and Bennett is difficult to understand since they are so different, and Bennett is so unloveable. In fact, the two should be if not enemies, rivals. Instead, their friendship supersedes everything, even love for a woman. Yet we aren’t given the foundation of that friendship in the flashbacks, except for one very short scene. Then again, maybe that’s what adds to the sense of displacement; that where there should be indifference there is interest , and where there should be hate, there is love.