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The Oxygen Man

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  112 ratings  ·  12 reviews
In this powerful and gritty first novel, Steve Yarbrough takes us into the deep-South world of Ned Rose, who works nights checking the oxygen levels in fish-farm ponds and does all the dirty work his wealthy boss requires. He silently shares the family home with his sister Daze, who is nearly blinded by bitterness, obsessed with her mother's reputation as a loose, lustful ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by MacAdam/Cage Publishing (first published 1999)
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"Just take 'Dixie" for instance," he said and set his glass down.

"Take it where?"

"What I'm saying is just look at what that song represents to us as opposed to them. I'm a Mississippi State man, same as you are, Fordy, and let's face it, "Dixie" is an Ole Miss song. But to me it's more than that. Man, I can't hardly hear it without getting a big old lump in my throat.

So, after reading that you're sitting there thinking this is just another grit lit drive through the Delta in a rusty old truck d
Hearty suspicion should accompany the reading of any novel described as “gritty.” As a description of work, which, as Lauter and other scholars of working-class literature point out, is often the unifying theme in working-class fiction, the first half of the book is truly engrossing. But Yarbrough truly cannot hold the plot together and the large chunk that follows is almost entirely incomprehensible. He tries hard to pick up the pieces in the final chapters, but momentum is shot by that point. ...more
I admit I would never have picked this book up if it had not been a requirement for a Delta culture class I'm taking. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. For a first novel,Yarbrough hits a home run. I was dragged into it from the start and was left bleeding by the roadside when it was over. Set in Mississippi in the nineties with flashbacks to the seventies it deals with class struggles and touches on racial issues, but class and guilt are the major themes. The ending is perfect....satisfying, but ...more
I can't remember who recommended this book to me on Goodreads, but thanks. Although written in third person omniscient, the narrative floats in and out of Ned's and Daze's memories like rumors from the past and present. It is sort of a coming of age novel for a man who is around forty-five and the conclusion is a violent rite of passage. It is populated with sad, desperate folks, both black and white trying to eke out a life and a living without a future anywhere in sight.
Down and out in the South. Comparing the cotton picking time of the 70s with the catfish land of the 90s, the Mississippi Delta hasn't changed much. There is a story here - but it gets all jumbled and tangled and it doesn't quite work. It's a story of economic divide, revenge, lost love, bad bullies, deep racism and it kind of falls apart.
Great writing however I was not fully invested in the story. The story was hard to follow with jumps in time. The 70's were just as racist as the 90's and maybe that was the point. The antagonist was much too one dimensional. The protagonist irritated me. Daisy Rose was the only character that kept me reading.
Glenn Kissack
The Oxygen Man is an emotionally gripping novel set in Mississippi in the 1990's, with flashbacks to the 1970's. It centers around Ned Rose, whose job is checking the oxygen levels in fish-farm ponds. Ned, who's from a poor white background but attended a segregated high school along with the town's elite, begins to question whom he owes his allegiance to -- his white boss, who was his classmate, or his black co-workers. The novel raises powerful questions about class shame and the value of "whi ...more
about 2/3 of the way through this book, i thought "this is like toni morrison, but written by poor white southern trash." it didn't quite end out that way - the magical realism never kicked in all the way like with morrison, but there was a hint early on and the resolution was . . . nearly as magical. yarbrough is a gem.
Even though all of these characters are trapped in rather depressing and sordid situations, this writer is so good, that you develop sympathy even for the worst of them. Everything becomes understandable as the plot unfolds. The writer is terrific, the world he describes is both familiar and strange, and--much as I hate that word--it is an uplifting tale.
Kelly (TheWellReadRedhead)
I pulled this book at random at the library, and was pleasantly surprised. It started out slow but the mysteries of Ned and Daisy's lives quickly kept me interested. The author did a good job weaving together several relationships, violence, racial tensions, self discovery, etc. I thought the ending was very fitting!
Life in the deep south -- segregation and race relations.
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Born in Indianola, Mississippi, he received his B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Mississippi and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas. Writing largely within the Southern tradition, he draws his themes and characters from Southern history and mores in ways that have been compared to Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, and Willie Morris.

Yarbrough's major wo
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