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Biloxi
Cover of Biloxi
Biloxi
A Novel
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Mary Miller seizes the mantle of southern literature with Biloxi, a tender, gritty tale of middle age and the unexpected turns a life can take.

Building on her critically acclaimed novel The Last Days of California and her biting collection Always Happy Hour, Miller transports readers to this delightfully wry, unapologetic corner of the south—Biloxi, Mississippi, home to sixty-three-year-old Louis McDonald, Jr.

Louis has been forlorn since his wife of thirty-seven years left him, his father passed, and he impulsively retired from his job in anticipation of an inheritance check that may not come. These days he watches reality television and tries to avoid his ex-wife and daughter, benefiting from the charity of his former brother-in-law, Frank, who religiously brings over his Chili's leftovers and always stays for a beer.

Yet the past is no predictor of Louis's future. On a routine trip to Walgreens to pick up his diabetes medication, he stops at a sign advertising free dogs and meets Harry Davidson, a man who claims to have more than a dozen canines on offer, but offers only one: an overweight mixed breed named Layla. Without any rational explanation, Louis feels compelled to take the dog home, and the two become inseparable. Louis, more than anyone, is dumbfounded to find himself in love—bursting into song with improvised jingles, exploring new locales, and reevaluating what he once considered the fixed horizons of his life.

With her "sociologist's eye for the mundane and revealing" (Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books), Miller populates the Gulf Coast with Ann Beattie-like characters. A strangely heartwarming tale of loneliness, masculinity, and the limitations of each, Biloxi confirms Miller's position as one of our most gifted and perceptive writers.

Mary Miller seizes the mantle of southern literature with Biloxi, a tender, gritty tale of middle age and the unexpected turns a life can take.

Building on her critically acclaimed novel The Last Days of California and her biting collection Always Happy Hour, Miller transports readers to this delightfully wry, unapologetic corner of the south—Biloxi, Mississippi, home to sixty-three-year-old Louis McDonald, Jr.

Louis has been forlorn since his wife of thirty-seven years left him, his father passed, and he impulsively retired from his job in anticipation of an inheritance check that may not come. These days he watches reality television and tries to avoid his ex-wife and daughter, benefiting from the charity of his former brother-in-law, Frank, who religiously brings over his Chili's leftovers and always stays for a beer.

Yet the past is no predictor of Louis's future. On a routine trip to Walgreens to pick up his diabetes medication, he stops at a sign advertising free dogs and meets Harry Davidson, a man who claims to have more than a dozen canines on offer, but offers only one: an overweight mixed breed named Layla. Without any rational explanation, Louis feels compelled to take the dog home, and the two become inseparable. Louis, more than anyone, is dumbfounded to find himself in love—bursting into song with improvised jingles, exploring new locales, and reevaluating what he once considered the fixed horizons of his life.

With her "sociologist's eye for the mundane and revealing" (Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books), Miller populates the Gulf Coast with Ann Beattie-like characters. A strangely heartwarming tale of loneliness, masculinity, and the limitations of each, Biloxi confirms Miller's position as one of our most gifted and perceptive writers.
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About the Author-
  • Mary Miller is the author of three previous books, including the story collection Always Happy Hour and the novel The Last Days of California. She is a former James A. Michener Fellow and John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 1, 2019
    This novel about a man and his dog is also about unexpected connections and the strange turns life can take.One day, while driving to pick up his diabetes medicine and a two-liter bottle of Pepsi at his local Walgreens, Louis McDonald Jr., in a panic at having spotted his ex-wife's car, turns "left instead of right" and finds himself on an unfamiliar street, in front of a house with a sign out front advertising "FREE DOGS." Soon Louis is in possession of a companionable border collie. Harry Davidson, the man who gives Louis the dog, tells him the pooch is named Layla after the Eric Clapton song about George Harrison's wife, whom Clapton subsequently (briefly) married. The encounter, a harbinger of things to come, changes the trajectory of Louis' life, knocking it off its previous passive path. Having made one unpredictable decision, Louis, 63 years old, recently retired, and anticipating an inheritance following the death of his father, begins to make more of them--some of the more questionable choices stemming from an inexplicable preoccupation with Harry Davidson's wife. Louis' post-marital life heretofore had been one primarily of solitude and inaction--stretches of watching TV in his chair, sipping beer, punctuated by visits from his "dull and fine" brother-in-law bearing leftover restaurant meals--but as he begins to take actions, both admirable and ill-advised, he starts to connect with those around him, set new patterns, and, ultimately, chart a new path into his future. Writing with insight and wit, Miller (Always Happy Hour, 2017, etc.) is both unsparing and sympathetic as she captures the perspective of a character who, initially at least, comes off as not terribly appealing. But at a slow, deliberate pace befitting the story's Southern setting, she reveals Louis to be something more than the emotionally limited sad sack he may initially be taken for--an irascible old coot, sure, but a lovable one you can't help but root for.Miller's deliciously engaging, gently quirky, surprisingly hopeful novel seals her spot in the pantheon of Southern fiction writers.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 25, 2019
    When 63-year-old retiree Louis McDonald Jr., the narrator of this excellent novel from Miller (Always Happy Hour), spots a “Free Dogs” advertisement when out driving one day, he stops and adopts Layla, a black and white pup with a gagging complex. The duo pokes around coastal Mississippi while Louis also deals with visits from Frank, his ex-wife’s brother, who’s concerned about Louis’s loneliness; calls with his semi-estranged daughter, Maxine; and his own attempts to settle the estate of his recently deceased father. A witty, insightful exploration of masculinity and self-worth, the story lets its protagonist roam with Layla and discover a new lease on life before introducing Layla’s original owner, Sasha, the wife of the man who gave her away without permission. When Sasha sees that Layla, known to her as Katy, did not run away, as her husband claimed, the much younger woman leaves him and shacks up with Louis, who is initially happy for the company, but who soon grows weary of her as their situation comes to a head. In Louis, Miller captures the insecurities of an imperfect man beyond his prime as he tries to find his purpose in the world, and the result is a charming and terrific novel.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from March 1, 2019
    Making a quick turn to avoid running into his newly ex-wife, lifelong Mississippian Louis adopts an underwhelming dog from a stranger he hates instead. The whole thing makes him forget to pick up his diabetes medication, the whole reason for the trip. Generally, it's a strange time. Not to even mention the looming specter of the inheritance Louis' recently deceased father left him, a windfall so assuredly anticipated that it generates suspense. Retired, single, and not exactly close to his adult daughter, Louis wants to think that, at 63, he could still upend everyone's perceptions of him and is at the same time utterly wary of doing so. Mixed-breed Layla, "more like a person than a dog," might not be very bright and has a definite gagging problem, but she seems like as good a fresh start as any. As disagreeable and contrary as they come, Louis is a narrator readers will want to hug and throttle with equal urgency, sometimes simultaneously. Delightful at sentence-level, this is foremost the story of his sluggish-but-sure metamorphosis. Even Layla gets a second act readers won't see coming. Miller, an absolute master of minutiae, relates Louis' innermost self with poignancy and humor that never sacrifice an ounce of realism.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2019

    Sixty-three-year-old Louis McDonald Jr. is an unfiltered mess. Depressed, overweight, diabetic, and nearly paralyzed with inactivity after his wife of 27 years leaves him, he's coming up short on reasons to live. Louis has quit his job believing he was due to inherit a vast fortune from his late father, which has yet to materialize. His minute-by-minute free-flowing, judgmental, often contradictory inner monolog on every aspect of his life, especially regarding the women he encounters and their bodily flaws, thwarts his small circle of friends and family trying to break through. On an impulse, he responds to a lawn sign that says "free dogs" and brings home sweet-tempered, laid-back Layla who, it turns out, was not really up for adoption. Louis's passivity draws in Layla's rightful owner, the much-married Sasha, who insinuates herself into his life with unfortunate consequences that put him at the crossroads. VERDICT Miller (Last Days of California) casts light on crushing loneliness in the form of a lost sixtysomething man at the heart of a sweet dog-saves-man story filled with plenty of surprises to keep one turning the pages. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/18.]--Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2019

    His wife's gone, his father's dead, and he's quit his job in hopes of an inheritance check that's probably not in the mail, so sixtyish Louis McDonald Jr. just sits around watching reality TV. Then an impulsive stop at a house advertising free dogs introduces him to chubby mixed-breed Layla, and he's off to the dog park for a whole new life. From the author of stunners like The Last Days of California; with a seven-city regional tour.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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