Daniel Woodrell is able to lend uncanny logic to harsh, even criminal behavior in this wrenching collection of stories. Desperation - both material and psychological - motivates his characters. A husband cruelly avenges the killing of his wife's pet; an injured rapist is cared for by a young girl, until she reaches her breaking point; a disturbed veteran of Iraq is murdered for his erratic behavior; an outsider's house is set on fire by an angry neighbor.
There is also the tenderness and loyalty of the vulnerable in these stories - between spouses, parents and children, siblings, and comrades in arms - which brings the troubled, sorely tested cast of characters to vivid, relatable life.
The Echo of
Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn't seem to quit killing him. He killed him again whenever he felt unloved or blue or simply had empty hours facing him. The first time he killed the man, Jepperson, an opinionated foreigner from Minnesota, he kept to simple Ozark tradition and used a squirrel rifle, bullet to the heart, classic and effective, though there were spasms of the limbs and even a lunge of big old Jepperson's body that seemed like he was about to take a step, flee, but he died in stride and collapsed against a fence post. Boshell took the body to the woods on his deer scooter and piled heavy rocks on the man, trying to keep nature back from the flesh, the parts of nature that have teeth or beaks. For most of a week Boshell was content with killing his neighbor just once, then came a wet spattering Sunday, the dish went out and he couldn't see the ball game on TV, so he snuck away to the pile and cleared the rocks from the head ...
Granted, this is not recommended general reading. It's for the sort of person who craves the gothic, the real life horror of such writers as Stephen King, mated with William Faulkner's Snopes clan, tossed with a dash of the worst violence from the daily news. There's no uplift, no sun coming out tomorrow.
This short volume is masterful dark writing at its best, set in a distinct, culturally isolated area, filled with characters no one in his right mind would ever want to know. This is the grotesque told with a sly wink.
(Reviewed by Lisa Guidarini).
Full Review (1105 words).
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