From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.
It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?
In the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre's literary masters.
With furious prose and a Faulknerian eye for character, Pollock (The Devil All the Time) populates his second novel with dozens of memorable people who embody America's headlong leap toward the future in the early 20th century. In 1917, everything changes for the Jewett brothers Cane, the capable one; Cob, the "slow" one; and Chimney, the hothead upon their father's sudden ascension to the "heavenly table." With the exploits of their pulp fiction hero Bloody Bill Bucket fresh in their minds, the brothers embark on a violent journey north, escaping the backbreaking, fetid swamps on the Georgia-Alabama border and their lives under the thumb of sadistic landowner Maj. Thaddeus Tardweller. In southern Ohio, aging farmer Ellsworth Fiddler and his wife wait for their prodigal son to return home after a brief absence, during which he may or may not have enlisted in the United States Army to fight in Europe. Facing inexorable change automobiles, airplanes, the machinery of war and agriculture Ellsworth and others who frequent the local mercantile are "in agreement that the world now seemed head over heels in love with what tycoons and politicians kept referring to as progress.' " But the Fiddlers cannot fathom how their lives will be transformed when the Jewetts ride into town on a crime spree that has made them the most wanted men in the country. Set against the backdrop of America's involvement in WWI and the rise of motorized and electrical technology, Pollock's gothic, relentless imagination seduces readers into a fertile time in America's history, exploring the chaos, wonder, violence, sexuality, and ambition of a nation on the cusp of modernity and the outmoded notion of redemption in a world gone to hell.
Storytelling at its finest. The characters are easy to connect with. This is the 3rd book I’ve read by Pollock and have very much enjoyed all 3.
Midwest Grand Guignol
Pollock creates a rousing tale of misery, suffering, destitution, and mayhem, all part of an extended journey, told at a cheerful pace. In a saga worthy of a Quentin Tarantino film rendering, three hapless brothers tumble into a life of crime, on the run and running amok. Every bit part becomes a full character, each with his or her own back story, woven into a tapestry of rural life at the onset of World War I. The reader is drawn into the scene willy-nilly, at times repulsed by the mayhem while sharing the protagonists' hope for an eventual seat at the heavenly table.