Presidio

A Novel

Presidio

Set in the 1970s in the vast and arid landscape of the Texas panhandle, this darkly comic and stunningly mature literary debut tells the story of a car thief and his brother who set out to recover some stolen money and inadvertently kidnap a Mennonite girl who has her own reasons for being on the run.

Troy Falconer returns home after years of working as a solitary car thief to help his younger brother, Harlan, search for his wife, who has run away with the little money he had. When they steal a station wagon for the journey, the brothers accidentally kidnap Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl asleep in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together these unlikely road companions attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha’s vengeful father.

The story is told partly through Troy’s journal, in which he chronicles his encounters with con artists, down-and-outers, and roadside philosophers, people looking for fast money, human connection, or a home long since vanished. The journal details a breakdown that has left Troy unable to function in conventional society; he is reduced to haunting motels, stealing from men roughly his size, living with their possessions in order to have none of his own and all but disappearing into their identities.

With a page-turning plot about a kidnapped child, gorgeously written scenes that probe the soul of the American West, and an austere landscape as real as any character, Presidio packs a powerful punch of anomie, dark humor, pathos, and suspense.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501153860 | 
  • August 2018
List Price $26.00 (price may vary by retailer)
Ships on or around August 21, 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Presidio includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Randy Kennedy. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Presidio is the darkly comic story of three unlikely travel companions whose lives take a fateful turn in one Texas parking lot. Car thief Troy Falconer returns home after years of wandering to reunite with his younger brother, Harlan. The two set out in search of Harlan’s wife, Bettie, who has left him and taken the little money he had. When an act of car theft accidentally turns into a kidnapping, the brothers’ plan to find Bettie quickly spins out of control.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The novel has three epigraphs, from the poet John Ashbery, the novelist Clarice Lispector, and the artist Robert Smithson. How did these inform your reading of the novel? Did you read them again once you finished reading? Did their meaning change?

2. What is your first impression of Troy? Is he a reliable narrator?

3. Troy’s “notes for the police” are also a journal of sorts. Why do you think he writes these? What do they lend to the story? What do they reveal about see more

About the Author

Randy Kennedy
Photograph by Marcelo Brukman

Randy Kennedy

Randy Kennedy was born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised in Plains, a small farming town in the Texas Panhandle, where his father worked as a telephone lineman and his mother as a teachers’ aide. He was educated at the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to New York City in 1991 and worked for twenty-five years as a staff member and writer for The New York Times, first as a city reporter and for many years covering the art world. A collection of his city columns, Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York, was published in 2004. For The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine he has written about many of the most prominent artists of the last 50 years, including John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Nan Goldin, Paul McCarthy and Isa Genzken. He is currently director of special projects for the international art gallery Hauser & Wirth. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Janet Krone Kennedy, a clinical psychologist, and their two children.

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