Both dark and astoundingly, funny, IRONWEED is one of those books that never leave your memory. It doesn't last long on your bookshelf, though; you are always lending it out or re-reading some, if not all of it. Set in Depression-era Albany, IRONWEED is an unforgettable tale of one man's search to reconcile himself with a past riddled with calamity and many loves gone awry.
The opening chapter, where protagonist Francis Phelan and his friend, Rudy, work as gravediggers for a day is as great a piece of dark comedy as the scene where Hamlet meets the gravediggers. I felt a sort of uneasiness about laughing at all of Francis Phelan's wisecracks, though. We know that they all stem from a life filled with pain, alcoholism, terrible coincidences, and frustrated dreams. Yet, he is a generous man. He will give those even more down-and-out than himself the last bite of his sandwich or the last sip from his bottle of cheap wine. And it is this sort of attitude--slivers of hopefulness out of seemingly permanent bleakness, generosity out of poverty, humanity out of an unfeeling world--that gives the book its life, humor, and appeal.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points.