cover image I Am the Light of This World

I Am the Light of This World

Michael Parker. Algonquin, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64375-179-5

Parker (Prairie Fever) traces in this frank if uneven outing the harrowing journey of an east Texas man who attempts to build a new life after serving a 40-year prison sentence. One night in 1973 Smyrna, Tex., 17-year-old Earl Boudreaux attends a wild, druggy party. The night turns hazy: there’s an orgy Earl scarcely remembers, and a drug dealer tries to rape Tina, the woman Earl’s in love with, then murders her. In short order, Earl, whose car is coated with Tina’s blood, is arrested and convicted for murder. Upon his release in 2018, Earl receives a large sum of money bequeathed by his lawyer which enables him to make a fresh start in Cliffside, Ore., where, after staying in a motel and struggling to lead a normal life, he finds a place to live and a new set of friends, all the while concealing his history until another fateful mistake brings his past to light. While the author aptly conveys Earl’s quotidian challenges post-incarceration, the book is marred by thinly developed characters, particularly in the first half covering Earl’s teen years. It’s not bad, but other authors have done much more with stories of false convictions. Agent: Joy Harris, The Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Nov.)