Pauls Toutonghi

Abandoned at a young age by his Egyptian father, Khosi Saqr is stigmatized by his name while growing up in the polluted and provincial old mining town of Butte, Montana. Apart from a trip to Seattle, he’s never left. In his mid-20s, he’s OCD, works in a museum, and tends to his mentally unstable mother. Escape is one big imperative of the novel Evel Knievel Days (Crown, $24), named for the festival honoring Butte’s most famous son. But Khosi’s other project is recovery—to find his father in the squalid heat of Cairo and, by extension, rewrite the script of his complicated family history. While that quest isn’t autobiographical, writer Pauls Toutonghi also has an Egyptian father, though he grew up in Lake City and graduated Garfield before moving east for college and a Ph.D (he now teaches at Lewis & Clark College in Portland). Toutonghi give his smart, self-aware hero a host of neuroses but also some unexpected resources. Among them is the ghost of Khosi’s great-grandfather, an advice-dispensing copper baron (just imagine Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski). A generous and generally comic novel, Evel Knievel Days even contains a few recipes, but it’s mainly concerned with family and place. Far from Butte, Khosi realizes, “Inhabiting a place doesn’t require being in that place. It lives in you long after you leave it.” BRIAN MILLER

Mon., July 23, 7 p.m., 2012