The Extraordinary Pupfish of Calaveras County

by Joel Schwartz

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Cover: The Extraordinary Pupfish of Calaveras County"

Out of rural California come two intertwined coming-of-age stories, an unwilling hero and an obstinate widow, who grapple with the hypocrisies of a twisted world.

When Jeremy McGinnis, a 15-year-old in the sleepy Gold Rush town of Murphys, discovers a retired teacher spasming with an asthma attack and out of medicine, it’s a no-brainer to get him to the hospital. But the local media suddenly turns Jeremy into a hero, his second “fifteen minutes of fame.” As he gets to know the teacher, Lester Crump, a man who has invested his life savings in three breeding Vietnamese miniature potbellied pigs and a trailer, he raises Andy Warhol’s comment into an intense and engaging study of personal integrity.

Outside of town Eliza Hewlie, a 65-year-old widow brokering the sale of an abandoned gold mine just upstream from Lester, has to contend with the threat of the deal contaminating the town’s groundwater.

As Jeremy and Lester design a project which becomes a huge environmental scavenger hunt, involving dozens of high school students and half their parents, the tale of a town galvanized into action is told in alternating chapters by Jeremy and Eliza. In parallel coming-of-age stories, both begin frustrated and trapped at the opening, feeling they are dealt an unwanted hand.