In a literary voice that is both original and powerfully unsettling, William Gay tells the story of Nathan Winer, a young and headstrong Tennessee carpenter who lost his father years ago to a human evil that is greater — and closer at hand — than any the boy can imagine.
It is also the story of Amber Rose, a beautiful young woman forced to live beneath that evil, who recognizes even as a child that Nathan is her first and last chance at escape. And it is the story of William Tell Oliver, a solitary old man who watches the growing evil from the dark woods and adds to his own weathered guilt by failing to do anything about it. Set in rural Tennessee in the 1940s, The Long Home haunts the reader with its sense of solitude, longing, and the deliverance that is always just out of reach, and brings to mind the greatest writers of the American South — Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Cormac McCarthy. [ synopsis from goodreads ]
Disclaimer: There's a spoiler in this review but it's only vaguely a spoiler?? So instead of marking the whole review, I just marked the paragraph. But if you don't want to run across it at all, you might want to stop reading now. So just as a warning...
Anyway, I have a lot of conflicting emotions about this book so I'll try to make this as coherent as possible??
So I was stalking James Franco's upcoming projects and saw that a film version of this is in the works. And the cast looks, well, amazing. And since I'm also trying to read more southern gothics, I thought I'd get a head start and read this before the movie comes out and also get a southern gothic in there.
Well, that was only partly a good idea?? Because I just didn't click with this book. I almost gave up after the first chapter. It seriously felt like I was reading the thesaurus. It was a jumble of "how many big words can I fit into this meaningless description?" Now I already don't do well with really long descriptions. I prefer talking to describing. But that first chapters is waaaaaay excessive. And yes I get that you like good words but when they're there just for having the sake of big words, I'm not interested.
So, anyway, I made it past the first chapter with some reluctance. And what followed wasn't exactly spectacular. It felt like Gay had no clue what he was actually writing about. The first half of this book felt like a big mess. It talked a lot about the different characters but some of them had no point in being there and their backstory wasn't even necessary. And the way this was written was really confusing. It had a lot of hes and shes and took sometimes an entire page to tell you who the he or she was that we'd been talking about this whole time.
AND ALL THE SQUISHED WORDS. Okay but seriously. Some words don't need to be squished together. That's why spaces and hyphens were invented. And sometimes trying to pick words apart was more headache than it was worth.
So that's the headache that was the first half of this book. But in the second half, the story actually started and it picked up the threads that the epilogue had started but had been dropped somewhere in the first half. And that's when I actually started liking this book. Following Winer and picking up his story was what should have happened in the first half.
Because the second half of this book actually had some semblance of a story, I liked it MUCH better and that was the half I enjoyed. I read that much easier and that's the part I'm excited to see as a movie. That half also felt more like the southern gothic story I'd come for.
*waves hands wildly* SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH
The only problem after that was the ending. Though that was more of a personal problem? It was an okay. I'm fine with it. It's something I can live with. But what bugged me was the book spent this whole time building up the death of Hardin and when we actually reached it, it was SUCH a letdown. It was like it was over and it was done too quickly and didn't live up to the hype the rest of the book had given it. And I was frightfully upset that Winer didn't kill him??? Again, this feed into the feeling that this book had no idea what story it was actually telling.
/okay you're safe from spoilers
So while I did like some aspects of this book, I just didn't really enjoy it as a whole. It's not one I could comfortably recommend to anyone mostly because I struggled with it so much. So many things felt pointless and unnecessary that it clouded the whole reading experience. And I never really connected with any of the characters?? This book was far more interested in giving us lots of long unnecessarily descriptions that given us information about characters that we actually needed like thoughts and motivations. And so I didn't really feel for any of the characters or really even care what happened to most of them.
I just hope the movie cleans up a lot of the problems and does something better with this story. Because deep down it does have the seeds to be a good story. I just felt it was approached all wrong.
review originally posted on goodreads