cover image The Heavenly Table

The Heavenly Table

Donald Ray Pollock. Doubleday, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-385-54129-9

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)