Delphic Oracle, U.S.A.
While Father Peter Goodfellow—preacher, inmate, and relative to most of the town—might be the narrator of Delphic Oracle, U.S.A., it is really the story of Maggie Westinghouse and July Pennybaker and how their star-crossed relationship led to the small Midwestern town of Miagrammesto Station transforming into the near-legendary community of Delphic Oracle. In fact, their association had consequences far beyond the naming of the town, as the results of their actions in 1919 trickled down through the decades and influenced the fortunes of the eclectic citizenry right up to the early 2000s.
July Pennybaker was a handsome and highly educated grifter with the gift of the gab. He would have been well-suited to a career in politics, except that “he learned early on to disdain politicians as amateurs … tinhorns who knew how to tap a mark but not when to shut off the flow and run.” After taking a con that bit too far, he found himself on the run from the Chicago mob and took temporary shelter in the one-horse Nebraska town of Miagrammesto Station. The first person he met there was Maggie Westinghouse, an ethereal beauty of uncertain parentage who was prone to drifting into trances and offering incompressible prognostications.
Sensing an opportunity, July declared Maggie to be a descendent of the original Oracles of Delphi and claimed to be the only one capable of interpreting her predictions. Although it might have started out as yet another grift, the relationship between the pair became very real very fast, and the results of their combined prophesies also proved beneficial for the rest of the town. As Father Peter explains, things in the town were never the same again, with the three main families—the Goodfellows, the Penrods, and the Thorntons—all engaging in peculiar and oftentimes unlikely shenanigans down through the generations, resulting in romances, rituals, recriminations, and the discovery of a skeleton in a vacant lot.
With Delphic Oracle, U.S.A., Steven Mayfield has crafted a charming and engaging slice of small-town Americana that neatly weaves together stories from different periods to form a cohesive biography of a town and its residents. The sense of place throughout the novel is excellent, as are the characterizations of the various citizens of Delphic Oracle, whether they serve as main characters or supporting cast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how the town and its leading families got their start, there are a host of strange, intriguing, and sometimes frustrating characters featured within the story, including a family man with an unremitting urge to run away coupled with a strong boomerang disposition and a know-it-all librarian who just might actually know it all.
A story comprised of the stories that people tell to remind themselves of where they come from, Delphic Oracle, U.S.A. is insightful, surprising, and a whole lot of fun to read.
|Regal House Publishing
|Buy this Book