Thursday, July 14, 2016

THE HEAVENLY TABLE by Donald Ray Pollock

Donald Ray Pollock's new novel can be equally frustrating and rewarding. Especially if you go into it expecting certain things based on the book blurb summary given by the publisher. I really enjoyed Pollock's writing in this one, just as tough and bold as we've come to expect in his work, but this time it has an added dose of black-humored wit that helped support the more pulp-y tone this book carried. Another thing that Pollock fans will expect are colorful, memorable characters, which this book has in spades. And that unfortunately leads to one aspect where the book falters, and that's in its pacing. The thing that's good to know before getting into the book is that it quickly jumps back and forth between a large cast of characters and Pollock spends a lot of time (one could argue unnecessarily) developing backstory for everyone, which really weakens the pace, to the point where a few times in the book I was wondering where he was going with all of this.

But once I got the hang of it all, it finally clicked to me that Pollock was creating a tapestry of this disparate cast of characters all dealing with the immense change that was happening around them in 1917, when the book is set. Whether it be the looming presence of the Great War across the sea in strange, faraway lands called Germany and France, to the growing popularity of automobiles, the introduction of indoor plumbing, or the breakdown of outlaw legend in the face of hard reality, every character here must come face to face with this change and decide either to move with it and embrace it, or to reject it. I wouldn't recommend this one to everyone, especially with its focus on so many seemingly secondary characters, but if you don't mind that, then give it a go. It's surely not as good as the author's first two books, but it's still a worthy addition to his work.

*I reviewed an Advance Copy of this through Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion*


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