You won’t read a novel that’s stranger, more fascinating, funnier or sexier than “House of Large Sizes,” which has to be on your reading list.
It begins in the Twin Cities with Gilbert Pym in bad shape. His wife has left him because he’s been having an affair with Estelle, wife of his brother George. His investments have taken a dive and he’s getting strange postcards from George, who’s in New Orleans preparing for an illegal sex reassignment operation after he was turned down by Minnesota hospitals. Gilbert, referred to as Pym, likes sex and there’s a lot of it in this book. As his former wife, Laura, puts it, “You’e a strange mixture — a pig with too much testosterone … and too many feelings.”
Early on, we also meet Terry, a vibrant, larger-than-life Irishman, and his wife, Vera, who have a secret connection to Pym. When Pym goes to New Orleans to track down George, he meets Terry and Vera, along with transgender people and cross-dressers who knew George but don’t know where he is. Pym finds himself caught in an underworld that includes a witch bent on revenge and a Mafia-type guy who’s connected to the shop where men go to buy women’s clothing.
This is a book to lose yourself in. It’s inventive, and the characters are unusual and likable (except for the witch who may or may not be able to transport herself through space). Terry, especially, is someone you’d like to meet, even though he has a prodigious ability to drink others under the table. And then there’s New Orleans, which somehow seems always mysterious, especially when voodoo is involved.
Leask was born and raised in the London area and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He has been a teacher, literary consultant and publisher, and co-hosts KFAI’s literary show “Write On! Radio.
-Mary Ann Grossman, Saint Paul Pioneer Press