Publication date: 2000
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(a comic novel)
Nevada sheep rancher Sabine Eckleberry’s life is in shambles. His wife has decamped to Arizona to run a dog-grooming business; his youngest daughter needs a husband; his irrepressible son VJ wants to turn the ranch into an ostrich-breeding operation; and the wild burros he has adopted to guard his sheep can’t get along with their charges. Now his family and friends are about to descend on the ranch to celebrate Sabine’s seventy-second birthday.
The ranch is soon a chaos of budding and blighted romances, mistaken identities, rampaging poodles, runaway sheep, schemes of seduction and sudden wealth, and a newly hatched ostrich chick in search of love. Novelist Michael A. Thomas has created a cast of memorable human characters, a supporting cast of realistic animal personalities, and a colorful setting in Nevada’s rangeland. His keen ear for dialogue and his perfect timing support a plot as complicated and satisfying as a Shakespearean comedy.
"Michael Thomas’s novel reminds me of the work of William Saroyan. It is warm, upbeat, and entertaining. Mr. Thomas’s characters are deliciously eccentric, and his story is remarkably inventive. And above all, his theme—that love triumphs over all manner of character defects—is heartening and even moving. This is a rewarding read." —Richard S. Wheeler, author of Aftershocks and Sun Mountain
"D. H. Lawrence found complex sparks in the mystical New Mexico landscape, and so has Michael Thomas in his spare, evocative, quietly etched Nevada. Thomas has an ear for chance, and an eye for those rare moments where a connection otherwise lost to the annals of memory breaks away to be duly memorialized in what is a living treasure of contemporary prose. Lurking beneath it, all around it, are the profound ironies and contradictions of human profit at the tragic expense of animal lives. Thomas’s characters mature in those trenches, and live to see alternatives—not by any specific change of philosophy, but through the sheer drama and comedy which is contemporary life." —Michael Tobias, author of Rage & Reason, Jan & Catharina, and Voice of the Planet
"A fine, boisterous picture of the tumultuous time and spaces where the New West collides with the Old." —Norman Zollinger, author of Riders to Cibola, Meridian, and Chapultapec
“Meet the Eckleberrys, one of the most endearing families to appear in fiction in years. . . . Nothing earthshaking happens . . . in the novel; a family gathers, and its idiosyncratic members simply share their individual interpretations of love. This is a charming tale, told with warmth and humor by a master storyteller.” —George Needham, Booklist
“A must-read, Ostrich is a fast-paced hilarious tale that is sure to please any literary palette.” —Pahrump Valley Gazette, November 23, 2000