If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. – Ernest Hemingway Farewell to Arms
The Good Guy List is a saga of a family from Wisconsin’s rural dairyland. The Good Guy List tells of the trials, survival, and redemption of the Joyce family.
Elle Joyce is the widowed mother of twin boys, David and Patrick, the duo protagonists of The Good Guy List. Elle is not a strong or courageous person, and she breaks when pressed by the trials of the world. Her sons, however, are bigger than life, vastly gifted individuals, courageous in their own right. The world challenges both boys differently, and The Good Guy Lists tells of how they bravely meet those tests. Their challenges differ, but they echo each twin’s respective trials as the boys come of age in the Disney-world peace leading up to the 60’s:
- They never know their father, who drowns just days before their birth.
- They must separate as they enter their teens when their mother’s mental health deteriorates.
- They both find love, and lose their loved ones. David stands by his childhood love, Jannie, as she fights to survive a threatening childhood disease. Patrick falls in love with a young married woman, Lynn North, who flees that they both may survive.
- Shouldering the responsibility of being the sole heir to the family farm, David builds a superior dairy herd that produces not only milk, but the more lucrative genetics sought across the dairy industry. Just as he reaches his goals, he is drafted into the Marine Corp and is destined go to Vietnam.
- Patrick gains all-American notice playing football at the University of Colorado. His career is suddenly ended by injury.
The Joyce twins face these challenges with courage and resilience, and the world responds by throwing even greater trials at them. For David, the world cannot break him. His lasting gift to his twin is the Good Guy List, the key to living beyond breaking from the onslaught of the world’s whims. David finds that it is his mother’s gift of redemption, forgiveness and survival that makes the twins stronger at their breaking points and enables them to reach the full measure of value in the gifts they carry through life.
The Good Guy List is comparable in setting and feel to Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Both novels contain wonderfully woven plots that stitch a mural of the tests put to families living in rural America.
As a story focusing on the coming of age on a Wisconsin farm, The Good Guy List can be compared to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. David Joyce, however, is not as dark a character as Edgar. Edgar evokes neither tears nor laughter. David triggers both laugh out loud humor as well as tears of empathy and grief.
The Good Guy List can be compared to A Prayer for Owen Meany as well. Owen’s flaws, however, are near grotesque; David is an inviting, aspiring individual who draws you into his heart and mind.
At 210,000 words, Echoes is a huge story. It reads as long as Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes’s first novel, as well as The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski’s first novel. It is every bit as compelling.
The Good Guy List’s characters come alive, and you are drawn into their lives. You become one with their family. You live as a Joyce through the twins. With them, you find the richness of grace in redemption.
See also: Why The Good Guy List?