Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review: "Cry Father" by Benjamin Whitmer

Reading as much as I do, you quickly realize that all books are not going to be fantastic, even within a genre that produces some of the most original and entertaining works of fiction being written now. I kept thinking about that while reading Cry Father, the novel by relative newcomer Benjamin Whitmer. It falls into the “country noir” category, and has a feel and psychology that can be found in books by Donald Ray Pollock, Frank Bill and Craig Davidson. There is a lot of violence, and the story is filled with seemingly reprehensible, or at least broken, people who try to find dignity in their shattered lives. I am attracted to those stories for their gritty honesty and refusal to follow trends. That doesn’t make all of them good, though. Whitmer’s novel is not bad, either, but it doesn’t have the force of will and maniacal edge that makes this genre such a memorable one. Despite what the front flap says, this really is the story of two different men, one whose hair-trigger personality makes living on the edge his only option in life, and another man, destroyed by grief and regret, who follows him on his dark journey. Patterson, a relief worker finds his way toward Colorado, drinking to forget the tragic death of his son and the dissolution of his marriage. After finding a naked woman tied up in friend’s bathtub, he finds himself embroiled in a conflict featuring Junior, the son of a former friend, whose life in the drug game is about to get even more chaotic. Whitmer writes more like Woodrell than say, Katherine Faw Morris: it is weightier, and tends to slow things down, even when flesh is torn and the bodies begin to pile up. Still, there is something entrancing about this quiet story of depravity that kept me reading, and I think it’s worth checking out.

Rating: 4/5

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