Book Review: Joe by Larry Brown - More2Read

Joe by Larry Brown


This story deals with characters that you may have read about before in other southern tales, ones that you may have seen in town, your local, but had never got to know more of.

The author deals with big problems in families and communities, a tale dealing with lesser than over the picket fence dream family, you get another slice of ones not quite living that dream but finding their way through the pitfalls and making decisions to make a change.

This story revolves around three men, three generations, three hearts.
The youngest being the fifteen year old Gary, he is a hard worker and a good heart trying to see through the wrongs that have hit his path, someone who learned of the smell of Whiskey early in his life, hated the presence of it in his fathers life.
Joe, in the middle of the three ages, another hard worker and a kind heart but also a troubled one, through mistakes, bad choices and a spiralling life.
Joe sees in Gary someone he hopes to help out and prevent from travelling darker roads.
Wade Jones the oldest, the father of Gary, has a wicked heart that maybe once had some goodness, but readers may feel doubt in him ever even possessing that. Everything serves the bottle, every penny earned from Gary’s sweat and toil to serve his bottle, the family to starve and drift so that his bottle be served. This man has no limits to what he would do to see the emptying of a bottle, he is the real bad guy of the tale, the wicked heart.

The main character Gary, is what has you in the story.
The author has you wanting to know of what his becoming will be and hooked in the narrative.
The great writing has you immersed in the momentum and has you seeing great words in motion, scenes unfolding like you are there in visceral pace at times.
This my first to read of Larry Brown’s and did so now due to the movie adaption, that was longer than i had planned considering Frank Bill’s recommendation to this novel back when i hosted in an interview with him here>>
Larry Brown in my mind can be considered a writer up there with writers who have crafted memorable and likeable southern characters like that of the great William Faulkner and the living Cormac McCarthy, alongside writers like Daniel Woodrell, Frank Bill, Donald Ray Pollock, and many others.

Some excerpts that show you his skill.

“It was that part of the evening when the sun has gone but daylight still remains. the whippoorwills called to each other and moved about, and the choir of frogs had assembled in the ditches to sing their melancholy songs. bats scurried overhead, swift and gone in the gathering dusk. the boy didn’t know where he and his family were, other than one name: Mississippi. ”

‘Late that night the rain fell thinly in the streets around the square, slashes of water streaming diagonally in the air above the wet sidewalks. passing cars sprayed it up from their wheels, and the blooming taillights spread a weak red glow across the pavement as the hum of their engines quietly receded into a night no lonelier than any other. The stained marble solider raised in tribute to a long dead and vanquished army went on with his charge, the tip of his bayonet broken off by tree primers, his epaulets covered with pigeon droppings. Easing up to the square in uncertain caution came a junk mobile, replete with inner-tube strips hung from the bumpers and decals on the fenders and wired dogs’ heads wagging on the back shelf, the windows rolled tightly on the skull-bursting music screaming to be loosed from within. Untagged, un-inspected, unmuffled, its gutted iron bowels hung low and scraped upon the street, un-pinioned at last by rusty coat hangers, a dying shower of sparks flowing in brilliant orange bits. No tail-lights glimmered from this derelict vehicle, no red flash of brakes as it pulled to a stop. It inched forward in jerks, low on transmission fluid. the old man watched these things. later that night he was thrown in jail.”

The movie was not able to capture what Joe was feeling in this moment.

“As she put it in a drawer under the counter, the Doberman (in the movie an Alsatian) walked out of the hall and stood looking at him. Coal black, a chain of silver, sleek and lithely muscled, and the lips lifting ever so slowly from the white teeth that lined his mouth. The dog hate him, had always hated him, ever since he was a puppy. He wished for the pistol under the seat with a slight chilling of his blood and felt that something that hated so strongly for so little ought not be allowed to hate anymore. The dog stood ravenous and slobbering on the bright yellow linoleum, the flanks tense and the brown eyes not blinking. Joe looked into the animal’s eyes and the eyes looked back with a deep and yearning hatred.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 01 August 2014