Jonathan Evison’s raw, gritty novel about the working poor stars Mike Munoz, an endearing character who wants to find his own American Dream, but feels “stuck on a hamster wheel.’’
The 23-year-old works paycheck to paycheck while living with his mother and autistic brother in a doublewide trailer on a Native American reservation. His mom is a waitress and takes extra shifts to make the rent. Mike dreams of writing the great American landscaping novel while he mows grass for a living. His landscaping jobs give him a look at his own desperate state compared to how the rich and entitled live. He actually enjoys landscaping and is especially gifted at creating topiaries. However, one day Mike has had enough. He is fired when he refuses to pick up dog poop in the pouring rain. “Most of us feel like the world is giving us a big fat middle finger when it’s not kicking us in the face with a steel-toed boot,” he tells the reader.
Mike’s personal life is not much better. His best and only friend, Nick, is homophobic, misogynistic and racist. Nick’s comments irritate Mike, who still feels loyalty to the only childhood friend he ever had. Mike does not have much of a social life because he often needs to stay with his brother while his mother is working. He also is broke, which doesn’t help with the dating scene. Mike finds solace at the library, where an employee, Andrew, offers book suggestions and his friendship. No matter how low Mike’s life gets, Evison always offers a ray of hope.
This coming-of-age story is sometimes angry, but also touching and funny. The author’s comedic timing while tackling heavy issues makes Lawn Boy a great read.