HARDSCRABBLE [WETHERELL, W.D.]
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It's 1996 and Ferris, a native New Englander as flinty and proud as the mountains around him, is once again about to predict the winners of the New Hampshire primary. He's been right in every election since 1952, when fate and a nose for news first led Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Max Thomas to his door. It wasn't long before Ferris's uncanny accuracy began drawing the great and the not-so-great to the Notch to sound out -- and perhaps influence -- the crusty bellwether of political success or failure. This election, however, is different, as both Ferris and Max face the hardest test of their wisdom: confronting the truth about themselves, their lives and loves, and a society that has declined painfully during their half century of friendship.
W. D. Wetherell, author of the critically acclaimed Chekhov's Sister, creates a bittersweet retrospective that is at once profoundly meditative on the intricacies of human relationships and full of sharp insight into the diminishment of the American national character. Ferris senses "a sickness" afflicting America's youth. Max, at the end of a career of writing about wars, the empty wisdom of leaders, and the decay of nations, laments of his own country, "The world's been in a race toward total confusion, and we've gotten there first."
Yet both men come to reject those bleak pronouncements, as each mines meaning from his past and avoids "he worst of all fates: a life that for good or evil had left no impression at all." Wetherell's elegiac story of loss and redemption is a study in the universal struggle to identify what values are lasting amidst the sometimes deafening tumult of change.