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Dark and gritty writing, but the story didn't keep up...

  • Oct 28, 2012
  • by
I'm not quite sure how I came to get on a list for this novel... A River Closely Watched by Jon Boilard. I'm guessing it came from a publicist, but I've misplaced the release that came in the envelope. Regardless, seeing an albino snake on the cover gets your attention. :) Rather than set it aside, I decided to give it a read. The writing was excellent if you're looking for something that is dark and gritty. The story didn't do quite as much for me...

The story takes place in a backwoods community located in the South. Bobby DuBois comes from a family of men who are not exactly shining examples of moral or civic responsibility. His father is a drunk and physically abusive, and his uncle lives in the woods on the run from the police. When Bobby's father is arrested for killing a police officer, Bobby hooks up with his uncle to avoid being put in foster care. In short order, everyone is looking for Bobby... the police, Bobby's father (who has managed to escape), a tracker... In the midst of all this turmoil, he has to decide if he wants to follow the same generational paths of his family, or if he wants to break the cycle and make something of himself and his life.

In terms of style, A River Closely Watched is easy to get sucked into. Boilard paints a dark, bleak existence for everyone involved, and the dialogue only enhances the picture. None of the characters are particularly likeable, and Bobby's father and grandfather are truly evil. When it comes to the story itself, I was less impressed. The momentum was slow, and it was hard to get emotionally invested in any of the characters. The resolutions I hoped would happen at some point never really did, and the book ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

My inclination to want action and resolution in a story puts A River Closely Watched in my "your mileage may vary" category. If you're more nuanced and subtle than I am, you may appreciate the story flow and find deeper meanings than I did. The writing style (which I enjoyed immensely) is what made this book readable for me. Your mileage may vary... :)

Obtained From: Publicist
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About the reviewer
Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #43
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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The all-maile DuBois clan is well known to local police. Though Grandfather Earl is now senile, his two adult sons, Blackie and Thaddeus, are still trouble. Thaddeus has just been released from prison but has already violated parole and is on the run. Blackie, teenage Bobby’s father, has just killed a policeman. Is Bobby headed to foster care? Not if Uncle Thaddeus has anything to say about it. Whether Bobby wants it or not, Thaddeus takes the boy on the lam with him and together they head for the high timber, pursued by the police; by Blackie, who has escaped from custody; by Ed, a soulless tracker; and by various aggrieved others. And then a hurricane blows in, and all bets are off. Boilard’s first novel is an exercise in noir, or perhaps it might be better described as Southern gothic come to rural New England. Whichever, it is a darkness-drenched celebration of violence. Yes, the author leaves a skein of loose ends, but his treatments of tone and mood are spot on, and his story is compulsively readable. --Michael Cart
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