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The rules are simple enough: “Here’s the deal: Whoever keeps his hands longest on one of the dealer’s brand new pickup trucks owns it and gets to drive it away.” An actual contest hosted by an auto dealership in Texas is the prompt for this fictional exploration, which seeks to probe the depths and shallows of the American soul.
To the players vying for this shiny new prize, competition revs up as the hours wear on, positions harden, sightlines narrow, and sleep-deprivation intensifies. At the center is the reporter Trew Reade, struggling to make sense of the event and his own role in it. Early on, he muses that “surface and substance were rarely the same; transparency could be the most cunning of masks.” So, too, is the author’s transparent prose. Reviewers have sometimes found Mojtabai’s vision akin to that of Marilynne Robinson and Flannery O’Connor, but the characterization from Books & Culture—“not like anyone else”—is perhaps best, inviting readers to discover this provocative writer for themselves.