It takes formidable talent to mesmerize readers of a novel that focuses on a deeply flawed, unsympathetic protagonist, but Brown succeeds triumphantly in his most wise, humane and haunting work to date. On the first day that Glen Davis is released from the Mississippi state pen (after serving three years for running over a child while he was drunk), he kills two men; that night, he callously tells the mother of his toddler son that marriage is not part of his plans. On the second day, he rapes a teenaged girl. Glen is a despicable person--mean, icily remote, seemingly without conscience. Sheriff Bobby Blanchard is Glen's opposite; a kind and decent man, he epitomizes integrity and responsibility. Bobby is in love with Jewel, the mother of Glen's son, and their relationship is only one of the heartwrenching dramas played out here. Only halfway through the book do we learn that Bobby is Glen's half brother; both are sons of Virgil Davis, whom Glen demonizes and hates and whom Bobby wistfully wishes would acknowledge him. In fact, all of the characters are involved in a web of secret relationships, and much of the resonance of this suspenseful narrative is due to Brown's adroit pacing, as he releases surprising information gradually and with natural understatement. Despite Glen's coldhearted deeds, we come to understand him, too, as he progresses to a desperate act of rage and revenge. As in his previous novels, Brown (Dirty Work; Joe) uses lean, lyrical prose to evoke the cadenced speech and the atmosphere of the rural south in the 1960s, where everybody chainsmokes and drinks whiskey. Though he depicts a basic conflict of good and evil, however, Brown never reduces the issues to stark polarities. Most impressive here are Brown's compassionate view of human nature and his understanding of the subtleties of human behavior and the fabric of society, which, after tragedy reknits itself anew, to reaffirm the essential kinship of a community of souls. Author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996 Release date: 01/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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