The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Many times while reading The Devil All the Time I thought of Flannery O’Connor, especially her “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Also, a couple of times Joyce Carol Oates’s short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” came to mind. Both excellent stories, and I recommend them highly if you like The Devil All the Time. It’s not so much in the way Pollock writes, he’s not a copy cat, but has his own style and voice. It’s more the content that reminds me of those other stories.
The novel follows the life of Arvin Russell: beginning with him and ending with him. The other characters, though initially seeming to have nothing to do with Arvin, all slowly become part of his story. I got the feeling of a drain swirling, with whatever is caught in that whirlpool moving ever closer to the center; in this case the center is Arvin. The characters are well written and the tension is pretty good and the chapters are fairly short: which means “I can get one more chapter in before I go to sleep.” Then, four chapters later, I actually close the book. It kept me interested.
Pollock’s novel is set in and around Knockemstiff, Ohio, which was new to me. And some of the description reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s novels set in Tennessee, especially the shorter ones, like Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, and Child of God.
I stumbled onto Donald Ray Pollock during some research for another author. I found that Pollock had won several awards and honors for his work and decided I would read something by him. I was not disappointed.
If you like the stories mentioned above, or other stories, such as The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant (recently adapted into the film Lawless), or Faulkner or McCarthy, then I would recommend The Devil All the Time. Now, that’s not to say that if you don’t like any of those I have mentioned, you won’t like this book. The best I can say is: read it and see for yourself.
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