Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Nominated: Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, 2011.
Source: Purchased from Amazon.
Favorite character: Arvin.
Favorite quote: "It's hard to live a good life. It seems like the Devil don't ever let up." ~Roy Lafferty.
All in all: Dark but compelling.
Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrificial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.
Donald Ray Pollock braids his plotlines into a taut narrative that will leave readers astonished and deeply moved. With his first novel, he proves himself a master storyteller in the grittiest and most uncompromising American grain. ~Goodreads.com
This book was chosen for the Horror Aficionados Group on Goodreads for the month of May. I really have to thank them, because I don't think I ever would have come across this title on my own.
Reading this book made me uncomfortable. It made me squirm. At times the images were nails on a chalkboard and it just made my teeth ache. It wasn't the gore or even the death, it was the way the characters thought and behaved. It was the physical and mental festering. However, I couldn't put it down. I was sucked into the characters and the story. The words flowed and the chapters flew by.
It is a mesmerizing read and the author conveys characters with such ease I feel as if I know them intimately, their dreams, how their mind works and their inner demons. It is dark, gritty, and dismal. What I think is brilliant is that every description is grim so as a reader, I never felt like I could escape this world. Even sunshine is not bright and cheery, but muted and oppressive. The entire world is sad.
It is a book filled with killers, corruption, people making poor choices and how their stories intersect. Everyone is interesting to me even as I peer into their hopeless lives. I think one thing that draws me to these people is their tenacity. They just keep going, muddling through their days looking for satisfaction.
The characters I like are Arvin, his uncle Earskell and his grandmother Emma. Emma and Earskell are good people who don't ask for much and have taken Arvin and another orphan into their home. Arvin has gone through a tough time in his life, traumatic actually, but throughout I feel he still keeps a quality of innocence and is endearing. I was drawn to him and cared about him even when he didn't always make the best choices.
There is a some debate on the Goodreads thread whether The Devil All The Time fits into the horror genre. It is also described as Southern Gothic. Some think it's more a psychological thriller and one person even said that it "...defies genres." I have to agree with all of these descriptions. While I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, I do recommend it as an undeniable powerful story with gripping characters.