Cover Image: Lawn Boy

Lawn Boy

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Member Reviews

At one point or another, each of us wonders how, as we grow up, we'll find our place in the world. Mike Munoz is no different; a talented but underappreciated and underpaid landscaper struggles to get out of the cycle he's grown up in. He hasn't had anything handed to him and struggles to find a job that actually means something. Munoz, as readers will come to know, has friends in wealthy places and no so wealthy places, but by the end, manages to succeed in his own right. Evison's Lawn Boy is so much more than that -- he's a friend, a brother, a son, an artist and all are explored within this novel.
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Mike Munoz can’t catch any breaks it seems. “I’d like nothing more than to spread my proverbial wings and fly the f**k away from my current life, or maybe just get above it for a while.”  His only job skill is lawn maintenance which he enjoys, and when he loses his job and can’t find another, he is plagued by one grinding indignity after another, and says, “After all, most of us are mowing someone else’s lawn, one way or another....fleetingly content, most of the time broke, sometimes hopeful, but ultimately powerless.  And angry.  Don’t forget angry.”

He still lives with his mother who sometimes has to waitress double shifts to cover expenses so Mike’s most important role is providing care for his 300-pound older brother Nate who functions at the level of a five year old, and for whom he is a surprisingly compassionate and tender caregiver.  Some jobs won’t work because the hours conflict with the hours he needs to spend with Nate.  Enter easy-going Freddy who is really good with Nate and whose baritone voice soothes him when he’s acting out. 

They live on the res and Mike points out that you don’t have to be an Indian to rent there.  “Apparently all you need is a bunch of broken shit in your yard.” At one point their landlord raises the rent forcing them to live in their car until another rental becomes available.  Mike is a determined young man who doesn’t want to “settle.”  He didn’t learn job skills at school but he did learn to read and the library becomes one of the warm places he likes to hang out and get book suggestions from a librarian. As a former librarian I adored this: “The library was the most stable thing in our lives, the only thing in the whole damn society that said to little Mike Munoz: ‘There you go, kid, it’s all yours for the asking.”

I think this is a rich as The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and certainly as warm and humorous.  One of Evison’s themes was the class divide in America.  Mike had a dust-up with a wealthy client and said “I guess when you’re a big rich, important person, sitting around on your ass, meditating on your big important, rich-guy thoughts, moving your money around in the ‘free market,’ the one built on the backs of slaves and children, you can’t be bothered with noisy lawn movers.”  

Mike Munoz is not given over to complaining and recognizes the need for honesty in his voyage of self-discovery, one step at a time making interesting and loyal friendships along the way. I absolutely loved this book, hated for it to end.
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Mike Muniz is your average guy, trying to make a living. Living at home with his older- mentally challenged brother and mother and now his mother's boyfriend Freddy.  He mows lawns and has a dream to do something bigger with his life and so he kind of loses it with his boss when his boss expects him to pick up dog poop - which is not a part of his job.  
Mike is a likable character. But the only problem was that the story wasn't told from the first person. I think it would have been more effective that way.  But I liked the story, and how quickly it moved.  It was aggravating how Mike gets screwed over again and again by his bosses and a guy he meets, an old friend who is now a hot shot real estate agent named doug.  It's a coming of age story but for a little bit older people.
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Mike is a landscaper, but his life is stuck in neutral. Will he ever be free to sculpt topiaries and write the great landscaping novel? With masterful style, Evison raises awareness under a cloak of humor. He touches on poverty, immigration, sexuality, and puppy mills, all to surprisingly hilarious effect. Laugh-out-loud funny, yet achingly real.
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This is an important book in today's political climate and was an excellent look into the lives of immigrants who are struggling so hard to achieve the "American Dream."  I found the main character's voice to be so well done, and it was a pleasure to get to know him.  I usually don't like books with this much profanity, but in this case it was such a part of the characters, that I just embraced it and moved on.  It may be a struggle, however, to recommend this one due to the amount of profanity and explicit dialogue.  So long as I know my customers are not bothered by the aforementioned, I will recommend it to anyone looking to immerse themselves in a unique novel exploring the struggles of immigrants and the marginalized population of our country.  Thanks for the galley!
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In Lawn Boy Jonathan Evison has given his readers another character to care about and remember. The story offers up Mike Munoz'  quick-witted first person narrative as he navigates his world  - his family, friends, employment or lack thereof, and questions of identity and where he fits in that world. Evison deftly but gently offers trenchant observations on class structure, wealth, social anxieties and finding ones true self. (And for us librarian readers - a sweet love letter to libraries:). 
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book.
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