Books & Books, Coral Gables. June 26, 2012. 8:00 p.m.
It is 1977, and in rural upstate New York, Lemuel Higgins has the world on a string: a promising career with the New York Yankees and a beautiful young wife, Sarah, with whom he’s creating a new home and family. Despite two successful big-league starts and a “Lem Higgins Day” parade in his hometown of East Angler, Lem’s world is shattered when the death of his estranged father sends him into a downward spiral of booze and brawling.
Five years later, Lemuel Higgins is a broken man. Abandoned by Sarah and their young son, Lem is wasting away from a new disease called AIDS. But his compelling voice rings through his last will and testament, penned to make amends to the loving family he regrettably pushed away, as well as to describe his late attempts at redemption.
The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins is an alternately brash and sheepish memoir that revisits glimmers of true happiness mauled by self-destructive impulses, while setting the stage for one last terrific attempt at atonement. Lem’s narration is a language of gentle seduction as he invites us to examine all of the aspects of his life – the good, the bad, and the ugly moments – in the hope of gaining our understanding and, eventually, forgiveness.
Kirkus Reviews called O’Connor’s debut novel “a luminous evocation of a hardscrabble community and landscape that lends resonance to a tale of dissolution and remorse. O’Connor writes in a stylish, pungent prose and crafts magnetic characters, especially in Lem’s brother-in-law Joby, a flinty, salt-of-the-earth farmer struggling to save his land.” Publishers Weekly also praised the novel, stating, “[O’Connor’s] subtle, often poetic prose and deep sympathy for and understanding of the trials and triumphs of small town living make this novel soar.”
Filled with moving, descriptive memories and suspenseful encounters, The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins is a must-have addition to any collection of new and powerful voices in American contemporary literature.
Patrick James O’Connor was born and raised in farming country south of Buffalo, New York, where he worked variously as a horse trainer, farmhand, park ranger, waiter, septic tank cleaner, and social worker. In 1993, he worked as a congressional aide in the Washington, DC offices of New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. After studying English Literature at the University of Richmond, he spent a season hiking the Appalachian Trail before pursuing a degree in law. Then, while studying at Georgetown University Law Center, he joined a fact-finding expedition to Guatemala, where he spent several years climbing volcanoes with his dog, Jonah, and working on indigenous rights and environmental issues. He is currently a partner at the Miami law firm, Harper Meyer LLP, where he practices international law and, among other projects, works to procure the return of stolen Mayan artifacts to Guatemala. The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins is his first novel.
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