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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-18
- Reviewer: Staff
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. Agent: Richard Pine and Nathaniel Jacks, Inkwell Management. (July)