Buttermilk Bottoms

Kenn Robbins, Author University of Iowa Press $15.95 (266p) ISBN 978-0-87745-169-3
A summer of drought followed by a summer of torrential rain forces Killie Willie to give up his hog farm in Frog Level and move with his family (wife Cora New, son Vaughn Brodie and obese daughter Ollie Gus) to the big city slum that is Buttermilk Bottoms. There Killie Willie sees two of his new friends kill each other, tells his first lie, and watches his son become a pusher and ultimately a junkie. To regain some of the peacefulness and simplicity of Frog Level, Killie Willie imports a pig from his old home, names it Perfecta and sets to raising it. Although he is chastised at first by the neighborhood, eventually Perfecta becomes the focal point of the community. Robbins is obviously indebted to Steinbeck and Caldwell, but his first novel has none of the substance or insights that mark their works. Allegory is hinted at and then abandoned, the overwhelming one-dimensionality of the characters (epitomized by their cute, ""hillbilly'' names) keeps the reader from feelng compassion or sympathy for them. The one character drawn with anything approaching complexity is finally flattened by a happy ending that seems an afterthought. There is, however, some good writing, especially in Killie Willie's reminiscences of Frog Level, where the author's confidence and knowledge of his subject come through. (May 31)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
Genre: Fiction
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