Newlywed Will Colby has just completed a six-month stint in the merchant marines. He returns home to find his wife dead on the kitchen floor. His biggest concern is the honeymoon he promised but never got to give to his wife. He packs her up in a set of coolers and heads to south to Florida.
Phil Winters just learned that his son Kevin has been found. He drove away one day and never came back. It turns out he's been resting in the family van at the bottom of a Florida swamp for the past five years. Phil heads to the accident scene. Amid the law enforcement chaos, he locates his son still seated in the van. At that instant, Phil decides to keep the road trip promise he made to Kevin long ago. Phil puts Kevin's skull in his car and heads north.
Miss Corpus follows the surreal journeys of Will first and then Phil. Between their stories are the narratives of peripheral characters met along the way. Author Clay McLeod Chapman visualizes roads as arteries in the body of this nation. Will and Phil drive along these veins with the story unfolding along the mile markers.
Several colorful characters and bizarre settings are produced including a boy with a corn-cob arm and a run-down motel that profits off of animals flattened on the interstate. Chapman vividly describes scenes of life and especially death. Miss Corpus contains some graphic passages, but the depth of emotion reached by the characters moves the novel along at cruising speed.
The detached analysis if life and death and the tendency to describe the story from a distance are reminiscent of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. The similarities end there, however. Chapman's debut novel is like an accident on the highway. You know you shouldn't look, but you can't take your eyes off the scene. Miss Corpus has that effect on readers.