Review

Wormwood, Nevada

by David Oppegaard

In early June, Tyler Mayfield and his wife Anna embark on a
journey from Nebraska to Wormwood, Nevada, where they hope to start
anew. Tyler, a teacher, has been alerted to a job opening in the
area, and he uses that as an incentive to begin a new life with
Anna, a former Miss Nebraska beauty queen. However, they have no
idea how drastically their lives --- and the lives of the citizens
of Wormwood --- would be changed.

During the long drive, with his wife asleep in the car, Tyler
glances in the rearview mirror of his Volvo and catches a glimpse
of a figure with “dark, almond-shaped eyes staring back at
him, cold and unblinking.” When Tyler looks again, it has
disappeared. Just who is this figure? And why does it remind him of
his brother, Cody, and Cody’s disappearance all those years
ago, which still consumes Tyler to this day?

Tyler assumes his backseat vision has occurred because he is
overtired, but the appearance of the odd passenger is just the
start of a strange, cosmic adventure for Tyler and Anna. When the
couple arrives in the middle of the desert, they are greeted by
Tyler’s Aunt Bernice (aka Bernie) and her lovable dog,
Roscoe. Bernie is the person who got word to Tyler about the
teaching job in Wormwood, and she has invited him and Anna to move
in with her until they can save money to buy a place of their
own.

Bernie is a chain-smoking, hard-drinking cafeteria worker ---
one of the “Hairnets” --- at the local high school. She
has lived in the desert for decades and knows how it affects
visitors and even long-time residents. Not long after the
couple’s arrival, she warns them that the “heat gets to
people.” But the two seem to be doing well enough: Tyler
begins teaching summer school remedial composition, albeit to
suspicious and unwilling students, and Anna finds a job at a local
casino.

Things begin to change, however, when a meteor streaks across
the sky. It lands in the middle of the Taco Thunder parking lot and
leaves a deep crater. The blast from the landing propels Mr. Diaz,
the owner of the restaurant, into a dumpster blocks away. Mr. Diaz
is in shock, but thankfully he survives. After he returns home from
the hospital, he abandons his restaurant to become a sentinel at
the crash site, warning the denizens of Wormwood that “the
end is near.”

Things turn deadly in Wormwood after Tyler and a new friend
strike out in search of meteorite fragments and witness a raid on a
meth lab. And it isn’t long after the meteorite lands that
Tyler’s visions return and Anna’s nightmares
begin...along with a feeling of impending doom that pervades her
waking hours.

WORMWOOD, NEVADA is my first introduction to David
Oppegaard’s work. It is a haunting novel with a vivid setting
and memorable characters, a story of cosmic love, loss and
yearning. While I haven’t read his previous book, THE SUICIDE
COLLECTORS, I’ve added it to my reading list now.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt (dvolkenannt@charter.net) on January 24, 2011

Wormwood, Nevada
by David Oppegaard

  • Publication Date: December 8, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312381115
  • ISBN-13: 9780312381110