Man from Nebraska
Tracy Letts
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Buy *Man from Nebraska: A Play* by Tracy Letts online

Man from Nebraska: A Play
Tracy Letts
Northwestern University Press
112 pages
January 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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At fifty-seven, after years on the road as a salesman, Ken Carpenter hits the wall. Whether from mid-life crisis or a crisis of faith, Carpenter cannot face the questions that suddenly assail him, his job, his Baptist church and his marriage no longer shield him from the troubling questions that trouble his every waking moment. When Ken sobs his confusion one night, questioning the existence of God, his wife, Nancy, stands by, confused and unable to relate to her husbandís emotional torment.

Lincoln, Nebraska, no longer a safe haven for a married man with a family, Ken takes the unexpected advice of his pastor and takes time off from selling insurance, traveling to London, where he has fond memories of time spent in the service. Fleeing the bland, conventional life with the unassuming Nancy, Ken has no expectations, just relief.

Propositioned on the plane on the way to London, Ken has a glimpse of what is in store for him: the freedom of making his own decisions, owing answers to no one but himself. Although not a naturally spontaneous person, Ken allows himself to believe that he is a different person far from home.

Befriended by a young female bartender and her flatmate, Ken gets caught up in their immediate problems, throwing himself into a friendship with people he hardly knows, freely contributing financially to this new threesome. Unwilling to directly confront the demons that have sent him running, Ken throws his energies into learning how to sculpt, his early attempts belying his newfound enthusiasm.

A patient wife waits at home with no word from Ken, but his daughter, Ashley, is less inclined to suffer her fatherís self-imposed exile, demanding the errant husband and father return home on the occasion of his motherís funeral. Confronted by the family he left behind and face to face with Nancy, Ken attempts to explain his recent actions, to navigate the difficult terrain back to his wife.

While in London, Ken slides into the easy oblivion of new acquaintances and no responsibilities; Letts does not address Carpenterís supposed crisis of faith. Perhaps the greatest lesson learned is that his English pals view him as a narcissist, the ugly American too self-absorbed to be part of the world he inhabits.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and while Ken is away, his wife undergoes her own transformation, no longer willing to be submissive to the desires of her husband, cast aside when he is infected with wanderlust, unhappiness and disappointment surfacing after years of deceptive tranquility.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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