After the football game, Orville Osentoski, Canton High's eighteen-year-old center, falls asleep in a locker room toilet stall. The team bus leaves without him. Orville walks to a nearby tavern where he finds Matty MacDougall, Canton's charismatic town drunk. Matty agrees to give the boy a ride back to town.
The fifty-two mile journey takes more than eight hours. What happens during those hours changes Orville's life, and the lives of many, many others, profoundly and irrevocably.
The story, which takes place in Michigan's rural Thumb region, challenges prevailing notions about class and reputation. It also ponders the question of whether we choose our lives, or if our lives choose us.
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This is a splendid piece of work by a gifted writer with an extraordinary eye for detail, a tuned ear for dialogue, and a sensibility that perfectly captures the feel of a locale he knows intimately. Spend a few hours with his happy band of endearing, oddball characters and it will be time well spent.
-- Lee Gruenfeld, Amazon Review
MacNeil offers an unflinching examination of downturned America, where "landscapes are increasingly acned with strip malls and housing complexes," ... While difficult subjects are explored, the prose delivers excellent psychological nuances; Chief's father, Garland, strikes his mother and "watching his wife fly across the room reminded him of his football days, which unearthed a confusing mix of contradictory emotions, like...pride and worthlessness." ... Overall, sweetness and levity battle with bawdiness for the tone of this story. An honest look at ugliness, hope, and love in a struggling small town.
–– Kirkus Reviews RECOMMENDED
Jerry MacNeil's first published novel is both eccentrically funny and poignantly sad. Beginning from the fabulous premise of a high school football player who misses the bus when he falls asleep in a toilet stall, we are introduced to the quirks and foibles of "the thumb" region of Michigan, which faces its bleak prospects with resignation, humor, and lots of Old Milwaukee. Orv ("Chief") grows significantly over the course of the novel, mostly thanks to his relationship with the town drunk.... the book ultimately offers a profoundly satisfying glimpse of humanity. (In addition, the prestigious Kirkus Reviews gave Rules of Thumb a rare RECOMMEND.)
--John Prather, author of The Adminisphere
The very best novels give us a glimpse into areas of life we may not even have known existed. MacNeil does this brilliantly in Rules of Thumb, a knowing, affectionate and moving slice of life in a small pocket of Michigan’s Southern Peninsula known as “The Thumb.” Eccentric characters abound (think “Fargo” without the blood), and MacNeil knows them well -- for all we know, he might be one of them. Either way, they’re irresistible, and you’d do well to let this extraordinary debut novel draw you deeply into their world.
-- Lee Gruenfeld, best-selling author of Halls of Justice and Becoming Holyfield
When Professor Mackinaw Piffler, known to friends and colleagues as "Piff", returns to his office after a bathroom break, Bez, a graduate student that he hadn't seen in over a year, is sitting on his desk. After insisting that Piff join her at a local pub called St. Patrick's Purgatory, she leaves his office before he can respond.
At the pub, Bez asks Piff to read the manuscript of her debut "novel" entitled "The Charm Bracelet," which is about a beguiling social chameleon named Jill Spender, who will stop at nothing to achieve a series of lofty goals, each of which she commemorates with a tattoo "charm" on her right wrist. Most readers would perceive Jill Spender as an ambitious badass, a charismatic anti-hero; others, like Piff and his mentor, noted psychologist Madeline Burns, are convinced that Bez and Spender are actually the same person.
Next Bridge is a story of intrigue. It is also a love story.