Over 12 years ago, John Burnham Schwartz introduced us to two ordinary families facing an extraordinary crisis â€“ the inadvertent death of a young boy, Josh Lerner, by a hit-and-run driver, a small-town lawyer named Dwight Arno. The book was RESERVATION ROAD, a wrenching psychological study about how a single moment in time can shatter an orderly world into tiny little shards. Now, in a poignantly written sequel, Mr. Schwartz revisits the two families â€“ the Arnos and the Lerners â€“ years later, at the cusp of yet another crisis.
I read Donald Ray Pollockâ€™s collection of short stories, KNOCKEMSTIFF, in 2009 when it first came out. It amazed me with its brilliance at the same time that it wrenched my guts. His new book, THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is just as brilliant but feels more like a kick in the guts. Itâ€™s heavy, horrific, beautifully written and filled with studies of people one hopes never to meet. There were times when I felt like a voyeur, watching something that was meant to be private and not shared but I read on anyway, fascinated and sometimes disgusted, but always riveted and totally impressed with the quality of the writing. The tenor, weight and tension of the novel never lets up.
Jimmy Boone is a certain kind of maverick â€“ out of the box and not quite a civilian. After serving his time in the Marines, Boone becomes a partner in a security firm. He works as a bodyguard for the rich and famous. He spends his time in Hollywood, Hawaii, Aspen or wherever those with money gather. It is his job to protect and defend them. However, one of his jobs goes awry. Jimmy believes that his client is sexually molesting his daughter and beats him to within an inch of his life. Jimmy later finds out he was set up by the manâ€™s wife as part of a mean divorce. The man he almost killed may have been innocent. Jimmy goes to jail and, when THIS WICKED WORLD opens, Jimmy is out on probation. He is bartending by night and acting as super of an apartment complex.
Andrew Winer has written a potboiler that is also literary. Writing about such a serious subject as the Holocaust sometimes constricts a novelist into a more conventional form of storytelling/historical fiction. But as we have seen with such books as Frederick Reikenâ€™s DAY FOR NIGHT and Nicole Kraussâ€™s more postmodern GREAT HOUSE, as well as Death as a narrator in Markus Zusakâ€™s THE BOOK THIEF, the only unwritten rules are to grip the reader in a credible story and to edify through words. Winer has done both, and he puts his unique stamp on it with his fluid, page-turning, thriller style blended with his out-of-the-box imagination and mellifluous prose. Like Plath did so craftily with THE BELL JAR, Winer will reach a wider audience by his hewing of the elevated with the pedestrian. Saul Bellow meets Stephen King. I applaud his ambitious style, which he succeeded with on many levels. Two stories parallel and merge, reaching forward in one, backward in the other, fusing in a transmigration of redemption.