Wednesday, June 26, 2013
What A Succulent Tale Of Southern Sickness, Darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Southern Gothic Novel movement continues, with Tom Wright's marvelous and compelling debut novel, "What Dies In Summer." Like Wiley Cash's "A Land More Kind Than Home," there is hardly a plot element present that has not been worked elsewhere in the Southern Canon, but as it did with Cash, so, too, does it work with Wright.
"What Dies In Summer" is set in suburban Dallas, Texas, but the way its narrator--a teenage boy nicknamed Biscuit--narrates so colloquially, the reader feels deep in the heart of Capote or McCullers country, and might as well be.
At the heart of the story is the revelation of hitherto untold family secrets, and how they dovetail into a murder mystery of monstrous proportions. I will certainly not reveal anything to my girls, because I am the last one who would want to spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that while things do get righted and resolved, I was left wondering about whom the real perpetrators just might be.
Girls, if you think "Southern Fried Homicide" (which you know I just LOVE!!!!!) is the end all, this goes it one better, with style and literacy!
Everyone in the novel is some kind of Southern White Trash. Even lovable Gram, with whom Biscuit, and his cousin L.A. (for Lee Ann) live with. The way I understand it, Biscuit's grandfather, who he might have liked, was a no-good alcoholic, who sexually abused his two daughters, Leah and Rachel, and one day, in a fit of either conscience or despair, depending upon how one views things, gets all liquored up, goes into the car with his gun, and shoots himself to death. Good riddance!!!!!! But, unfortunately, his daughters, Leah and Rachel grow up to be two of the most despicable trash bitches this side of Goneril and Regan! Leah, mother of Biscuit, is widowed, and, not being fit for anything, so she can do nothing but live with a man, takes up with a worthless abuser, named Jack. Who gets his comeuppance, of sorts. Rachel is worse; she gives birth to Lee Ann, but her husband, Cam, turns out to be so abusive, and when Rachel can't stand it any more--get this--she turns her own daughter, over to this guy, so that she doesn't have to take it any more! What a fucking bitch!!!!!!!!!!! Send this one to the slammer. As far as I am concerned, no matter what else happens in this novel--and plenty does--I hold Leah and especially Rachel to be the real perps. They deserve as much of the blame as the killer.
For there turns out to be a killer on the lose in their midst. Starting with Biscuit and Lee Ann finding the naked, mutilated body of Tricia Venables in a field near a body of water, other victims are found, and the town is in a tizzy. It is also ripe with so many suspects, because just about every male in this story, save Biscuit, and his girlfriend, Diana's father, who is Chief Detective of the town, turns out to be some sort of garden variety sex deviate. But what happens to the girls goes more than mere deviancy.
What I would have liked, especially given Wright's background as a psychotherapist, is insight into why the killer is driven to do what he does. Yes, Evil is out there, but there is always a reason for it, and I wish Wright had let the reader known why.
Girls, I am telling you, I could not tear my eyes from this one, till the very last page!!!!!!!!!!! To think I read it in Summer, too. But this will go down as a great read, no matter what the Season.
And it would go doubly well with some Sweet Ice Tea and Hummingbird Cake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!