Friday, February 24, 2012

The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins.

By Patrick James O’Connor.
“It was just this morning that I watched a buck come up over the hill that sits behind the north field looking off over toward East Angler. A little doe trailed along behind him, their white tails twitching in the chill of dawn. The sun was coming up over the forest to the east, and I thought to myself that it had come on just a bit later than the day before, its rays glancing quickly off the ground and giving a hint of gold to everything they touched in the softness of mid-autumn.
Lemuel Higgins writes these words to the only woman he has ever loved, from what will be his deathbed. Lemuel lays out all that he has left in this world to those he cares for, telling his tale of how he screwed up, how he went from a king of his own world to dying far from his wife and child in a bedroom in his best friend and brother in-law’s farmhouse. This is the tale of a small-town boy who seeks sporting glory and a way out of the hardscrabble farming community he was raised in.Lem_Baseball_2
This is a tale we’ve seen countless times splashed across the tabloid papers, a promising athlete, starts to believe all that he reads or is told and comes to believe they are invincible, they become dazzled by all that stardom has to offer, until reality, with it’s size ten boots, kicks them to the ground. Once Lemuel Higgins was on his way to a major league career in baseball, but when we meet him he’s lost everything, and is physically, mentally and emotionally a broken man, dying of aids after a blood transfusion after a drunken brawl.
What’s different about this tale is how it is written, although it’s a memoir and a love letter, it is also a coming of age tale, which makes this a bildungsroman - written in the form of a legal document -  because The Last Will and Testament is just that. Each chapter has become a bequest, of which there are fifteen, whether this is to wife, son or the bequest of forgiveness he gives to his dead father and it is through these bequests that we learn of Lemuel’s fall from grace.
Now a confession, “I Know Nothing About Baseball”, but that’s not a problem here, this is merely his chosen route out of the small town he comes from, it could have been by any means. This was a wonderful tale which kept me interested in Lemuel’s life, that even though you knew what an absolute (+ expletive of choice) he became, you end up rooting for him. When I read a book, I sometimes like to write notes, jot down ideas on a notebook app on my phone then when I’ve finished the book I reread them for ideas of what to write. Now what I’d noted was, Bon Iver’s first album, by which I meant this would be fantastic to read with that album (for Emma, Forever Ago) playing in the background, it’s not necessary but would make a wonderful ambience to this tale of a man faced with his final season on this earth.
Lem Higgins - Front Cover Final (2)

“I, Lemuel Ryan Higgins, a resident of the State of New York, being sound in mind and somewhat less in body, having twenty six years of age and having been lawfully married to the most beautiful Sarah Danner Higgins for the best years of my life, and leaving behind me one son, Daniel Conor Higgins, known to one and all as Irish royalty as the rightful and true High King of Tara….”


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, whilst studying at Georgetown University Law Centre, 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 artefacts to Guatemala. The Last Will and Testament of Lemuel Higgins is his first novel.
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For Increased Ambience


Violet said...

You've sold me on this! It sounds right up my street and I love the idea of reading it with "appropriate" music in the background, creating a whole other sensory experience. A really lovely post, and thanks for bringing the book to my attention.

Unknown said...

I like the idea of how this is structured (and don't worry - I know nothing about baseball either!).

Iris said...

You just had to mention Bon Iver, didn't you? If your description hadn't sold me, the idea of reading this with that album would have! I normally wouldn't have picked this up because of the baseball aspect, but I'm glad that doesn't matter.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Violet, thanks for your comment & if you purchase it, let me know your opinion on it, will be great to compare notes.

Hi Tony, It was the structure that first appealed, the way each individual bequest led into his story.

Hi Iris, You know with this particular album, it was supposedly created for the most part out in the wilds in a small cabin, with winter all around, this is how the book feels. Lemuel is in a small attic type room watching autumn turn to winter, perfectly representing the closing of his own life, whilst he write this testament.

Col (Col Reads) said...

I actually love baseball, but I suspect this book would be incredibly appealing even if I didn't. I liked the quote you picked about his son being "Irish royalty." I think I will be adding this to my TBR pile!

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Col, Yes Baseball has no appeal to me what so ever & yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Baseball was merely his means of escape it could have been music, boxing etc, So for a fan you should really enjoy this.

gina @letterandline said...

Ooh, I think this is going on my TBR. I like the idea of it taking the form of a last will/testament.

Also, I'm glad you addressed the “I Know Nothing About Baseball” business because I don't know anything about it either. Glad that this wasn't a deterrent!