The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts
Robert McKean’s critically acclaimed novel, The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts – winner of the 2016 Longleaf Press Novel Award and Finalist in the 2018 Eric Hoffer Awards – is now available on Amazon.
The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts is the story of two individuals, Franz and Ellen Stahrenberger, searching for a path out of a labyrinth of sorrow.
Franz, college prof and lapsed poet, is from Ganaego’s famous chocolate-making family (well, famous in Ganaego), and Ellen is a somewhat unconventional real estate agent.
Having lost their only child, the fifteen-year-old Jean, in an accident whose circumstances remain ambiguous, Franz and Ellen discover themselves alone again, premature empty-nesters, but not alone together. At some point in the year of their recovery that the novel traces, Franz realizes that as much as you may wish to come to grips with tragedy, you can’t. What you come to grips with is the new person tragedy makes of you.
Inside the novel is a second novel, a series of fanciful and rueful stories about Jean that Franz begins secretly writing as a way of dealing with his grief. It will be these clandestine Jean stories, in fact, that bring their marriage to a crisis point.
For a novel that deals with the aftermath of sudden death, The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts is wonderfully full of life.
Robert McKean writes with such fierce intelligence, such lyrical wit and psychological acuity, that I found myself thinking that Franz and Ellen Stahrenberger were living just down the road — that I might meet Franz in the halls of the local college, or Ellen taking down a “For Sale” sign.
I was ready to follow these characters, and their author, anywhere.
Robert McKean’s The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts offers a moving depiction of grief’s unraveling of the self and relationships after the death of an only child.
This profound and beautifully written work deserves an honored place in the canon of contemporary literature.
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