Thursday, December 08, 2005

Review: Father and Son by Larry Brown

The general feeling I get when I put this book down, is that I must be missing the point. I surfed around for other book reviews to get the reaction of other more sophisticated readers, but unfortunately, it seems I am left alone to fend for myself. The jacket builds the expectation that a master is going to take you on a psychological thrill ride; but the reality, at least for me, was quite different.

The story begins with the release of Glen Davis from prison, where he has been for three year years for manslaughter. Glen is a pure force of rage, and has revenge on his mind. His girlfriend Jewel has waited for him faithfully during his internment, and has been raising the child that Glen gave her--a child that Glen refuses to recognize as his own. Glen returns home to his father, Virgil, who Glen hates because of an affair that Virgil had with Mary Blanchard, which hurt Glen's mother, who died while Glen was in jail. To complicate matters, Virgil and Mary had a son, Bobby, who is the sheriff that put Glen away, and who is seeking to have a relationship with Jewel.

Does this sound like a soap opera to you? It does to me too.

There are other characters, whom Brown spends time building. Glen has a brother Randolph, or Puppy as everyone calls him, who picks him up from jail. Later we learn about his failed attempt at running a car repair business, and his strained marriage. In the end, it seems that Puppy was an extra, playing no integral role in the outcome of the story. I can only assume his part fed into the theme of fathers and sons, but served no other purpose beyond that.

It seems that much of the book was spent feeding an artistic theme, but didn't propel the story forward, leaving me wishing this were a short story instead. The ending was done well, but it took an age to get there. Even then, when the story's "Sweet Sue" was metaphorically tied to the railroad tracks, we are tortured with descriptions of the countryside, and treated to fond memories of days gone past.

Make no mistake; Larry Brown is a gifted writer. His scene descriptions are beautiful, and his dialog feels authentic. For my own tastes, I'd like to see more story movement and the art seamlessly woven in. In the end the message is one we've all heard before, with nothing new to add. It really hit home when I described the story to my wife, who summed it up in one word: typical.

8 comments:

Kathleen said...

Thanks, I won't add this to my list.

Tee said...

Good review of a not so great book. LOL. Do everyone a service and start posting these on Amazon.com, eh?

Scott said...

Well, this is just my opinion of the book, and I don't feel strongly enough about it to blast him on such a high traffic website.

I'd love to hear what someone thinks that liked the book. It was certainly worth a read for a book club. That's why I think a more "sophisticated" reader might shed some of the nuances onto me that I missed.

none said...

We'll talk about this book later. Onward. (((G))))

Eve said...

Why should books only be for "sophisticated" readers? You didn't like it - period. Don't apologize for that. Plus, what makes you think your not a "sophisticated" reader? I've discovered that a lot of times reviewers will follow the lead of the first reviewer, afraid to ruffle feathers, or, "don't feel strongly enough about it to blast him on such a high traffic website." You're not blasting him, you're giving your opinion - something an "average" reader would appreciate. Sometimes I think books become classics only because people are afraid to say - "this book is boring". You gave a great review with logical arguements to support your opinion.

Dixie Belle said...

Larry Brown was a firefighter in Oxford as well as a writer. He's dead, died young of a massive heart attack. I've never read him but I've heard he writes really dark, depressing characters. He said he based them on the people he knew. He's not as commercial as John Grisham. I think they made a movie from one of Brown's books but I don't recall which one.

mr. schprock said...

When I read your synopsis, the image that came to mind was a really complicated football play scribbled on a blackboard. It sure doesn't sound like my kind of book.

magnetbabe said...

If you are ever looking for something to read, check out the link for the book club I'm in:
Tampa Bay ORT Book Group

We have read some RELLY good books. I haven't loved every one of them, but they have all been thought-provoking.