The Loss of Leon Meed

In this inventive and utterly engaging debut, ten residents of Eureka, California, are brought together by a mysterious man, Leon Meed, who repeatedly and inexplicably appears -- in the ocean, at a local rock music club, clinging to the roof of a barreling truck, standing in the middle of Main Street's oncoming traffic – and then, as if by magic, disappears.

Young and old, married and single, punk and evangelical, black, white, and Korean, each witness to these bewildering events interprets them differently, yet all of their lives are changed – by the phenomenon itself, and by what it provokes in them. And whether they in turn stagger toward love, or heartbreakingly dissolve it, this portrayal of their stories is strikingly real and emotionally affecting.

“A madcap parable about an unwitting Houdini named Leon Meed...[which] leaves us hungry for more. Emmons cycles through and illuminates the plights of his diverse, crowded cast—including a recovering alcoholic, an overweight therapist and a Korean hippie—with a finesse that approaches that of a seasoned literary ventriloquist. The characters’ stories take on a cumulative, mesmerizing rhythm.”

– The New York Times Book Review

“An audaciously ambitious first novel…[not] merely determined to dazzle with weirdness. The Loss of Leon Meed is a canny status report on the American soul…engaging, enigmatic.”

– The Los Angeles Times

“A mystical ensemble fable about chance and fate and the importance of not giving up ... Emmons has sizable talent [and] a real shape-shifter's gift for imagining his way into lives different from, and especially older than, his own... There's wonderful stuff here, little stylistic pleats, serifs and tailfins that root in the mind and just won't budge. Ambitious...its central enigma rewards speculation.”

– The San Francisco Chronicle

“Here's how you know Josh Emmons is the real deal: he's created a full spectrum of Californian characters who are ludicrous and ill-behaved and lovable in equal measure; he’s a major-league prose writer who has fun in every sentence without ever showing off or hitting a phony note; and you want to keep reading him for the pure pleasure of his company.”

– Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections

“Josh Emmons’ dynamic debut novel, The Loss of Leon Meed, focuses on 10 residents of the small, isolated coastal city of Eureka, California—young, female, straight, black, old, gay, white, male—whose lives are drawn together and inexplicably changed over the course of a decade of vanishing and visitations by Leon Meed, a troubled 54-year-old drugstore clerk, only to find themselves altered yet again when he is finally found.”

– Elle

“As remarkable and moving a portrait of America as I have seen in some time. Josh Emmons pieces together the emotional life of a small city with a wit and range that recalls Robert Altman’s Nashville. Mature yet playful, fanciful yet brimming with the details of contemporary life, The Loss of Leon Meed leaves us with an odd feeling of hard-won hope. The hope that in our society kindness and reason may one day prevail.”

– Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“Emmons writes with crisp, gratifying authority. As Leon Meed pops up peculiarly, he takes excellent advantage of his character's mobility. The various sites of Leon sightings enable the story to skip around and help conjure a robustly eccentric Northern Californian atmosphere. The Loss of Leon Meed has considerable appeal...and succeeds in finding comic potential in unlikely places. Its developments are jauntily clever...and the novel has a well-developed screwball quality that keeps it buoyant. Emmons has characters bumping into one another unawares until they form a web of interconnection. [He] is wise.”

– The New York Times

“This complicated, twisting story ends with a mystery solved, and there are wonders in store for the reader as the townspeople are given the gift not only of seeing Leon, but of knowing that he has seen them. As Eve thinks, running with her friend, "You didn't think you had all the time in the world with people, but you thought you had more than there ended up being." Readers will wish they had more time to spend in Eureka, with these utterly involving characters, as they find God or love or hope when they least expect it and probably most need it. This wise and lovely book both understands the troubles of these times and soothes them.”

– New Orleans Times-Picayune

“Emmons’ assured prose evokes a drifting sense of desperation, laced with a humor born of groundless hope…his ability to speak convincingly in multiple voices enchants to the very end.”

– The Onion A.V. Club

“Touched with magical realism and a classical sensibility but a thoroughly contemporary feel, The Loss of Leon Meed resonates with the familiarity of a hymn forgotten since childhood, while also pointing toward a redemption most of us have only dreamed possible. It is funny, frightening, generous, amazingly graceful, and deeply, deeply human.”

– Pages

“Emmons dazzles with his sentences, taking risks with all the writerly challenges... and nailing each like a young Jonathan Franzen.”

– SF Weekly

“In an imaginative and eminently readable debut, Emmons binds together a roster of strangers in a weirdly likable tale of the supernatural. In a very fanciful way, [he] lovingly carves very believable people out of the mists of California and displays them amidst the cacophony of their lives. A witty and sparkling debut.”

– Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“From the most unlikely of circumstances—a man who has come unstuck in time—Emmons constructs a story that is both wholly original and poignantly familiar. Part mystery, part meditation on longing, part love story, The Loss of Leon Meed is a gripping, evocative, heart-wrenching novel.”

– Alison Smith, author of Name All the Animals

“What a pleasure to be welcomed to a brand-new world. Josh Emmons's Eureka, mapped with well-chosen details and a sympathetic eye, is populated by terrific characters whose quests for love, faith and mystery interlock with delicate grace and humor. I enjoyed them all, especially the enigmatic Leon Meed. His loss is our gain."

– Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil

“Witty, compassionate, and imaginatively structured, Josh Emmons’s debut is one of those novels that make you think, ‘only in California.’”

– Adam Langer, author of Crossing California

“Josh Emmons’s gorgeous and heart-rending novel is imbued with rare intelligence and even rarer compassion. The Loss of Leon Meed is like a cathedral, in which our wanton failings and unexpected triumphs are gracefully laid bare, and the ensemble cast is its choir, a concert of perfectly pitched and exquisitely aching voices singing of hope and grief, of being lost and, at last, of being found.”

– Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remeber Me Like This

“Emmons’s imaginative debut novel [is thredded] with interesting meditations on religion, psychotherapy, death, and fate. [He] shows considerable flair in his striking ability to give his whimsical premise such philosophical overtones.”

– Booklist

“A promising debut.”

– Publisher’s Weekly

“These interlaced stories and the Leon mystery weave together a tale that is captivating to the last page.”

– Chattanooga Times Free Press

“Drop in on The Loss of Leon Meed, Josh Emmons’s ingenious debut about a mysterious voyager whose unexpected appearances in unusual locations around a small coastal California town suggest that he’s traveling through time.”

– Daily Candy

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