Click here to read reviewer Douglas R. Cobb's take on Goodnight, Texas.
A small fishing village on the vulnerable Gulf Coast, Goodnight, Texas, is home to eccentrics, the unemployed and a failing fishing industry, residents clinging to a fading future in a once-productive, now tapped out and fading town, over-fished and left to die, littered with the remnants of nowhere lives and general discontent: “This was the year the light of Goodnight was fading.”
Faced with a ravaged economy and the threat of an incipient hurricane, the residents of Goodnight plod through the days, many oblivious by choice, cranky from the hardships they have endured and too stubborn to change. When a gigantic tiger fish washes ashore with the remnants of a pony in it’s mouth, the locals take it as a bad omen of things to come: “A horse be washin’ up dead in the mouth of a fish, now that’s a foretellin’ Bad things a’comin’.”
Extreme characters are plentiful in Goodnight, the poor more numerous than their counterparts, the place a catchall for the hopeless, the discontented and a handful of terminal optimists, like the Russian owner of the Black Tooth Café, Gusef. Throw in a few wealthy tourists to rub salt in the depressed-economic wound, dead mammals poisoned by their natural habitat, and a hurricane on the horizon, and the recipe for disaster is complete.
The beautiful Una, a Vietnamese-Hispanic waitress in the café, has decided to end her unsatisfying romance with the volatile Gabriel Perez, newly-unemployed and with a vendetta against anyone and anything that stands in his way, including Falk Powell, a seventeen-year-old high school dropout who has caught Una’s eye.
It would appear that Una is the catalyst for the novel, given her charms: “One can imagine she must have broken many hearts, men turned to fish and left to swim sadly beneath the pier lights, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.” But she is only the window dressing as events spin out of control with the advent of the hurricane that will decimate Goodnight and reconfigure its future.
Life happens in Goodnight, Texas, the landscape littered with broken dreams. Strangely enough, for this odd collection of eccentrics, misfortune comes bearing gifts, opportunities for change and growth that were impossible until Goodnight’s devastation becomes an object of national obsession, the “forgotten America,” bringing flocks of sightseers and rebuilding funds.
Unfortunately, the characters fail to stimulate the imagination as much as the author’s prose, a vivid rendering of a Gulf Coast suffused with nature’s beauty in decline. Still, Cobb has created a ribald collection of individuals who coexist by virtue of their tolerance, generosity and affection for one another, their broken dreams redeemed by the spirit of survival.