Friday, June 5, 2009

#82 - "Child of God" by Cormac McCarthy

I was actually looking for the The Crossing, the second book of McCarthy's Border Trilogy when I was stalking the 'Mc' section in the library. I'm not sure what it is about the beginning of summer but almost all of Cormac McCarthy's books were checked out. Besides The Road, which I had already read, only one slim volume still rested on the shelf. Because I have consistently found Cormac McCarthy's writing disturbing and fantastic, I'm planning on reading all of his books; so I picked up Child of God (1973) instead.

I always have a hard time when it comes to reviewing McCarthy's books. Violent, disturbing, sometimes hard to read, but I can't let them go. His stories come with such stalwart characters and so little emotion that it often isn't until after I'm done reading and I suddenly feel like crying that I realize how strongly they've affected me.

Child of God
takes place in the hill country of East Tennessee; although because I didn't recognize the name Sevier County in the book, I wouldn't have known the setting if it wasn't for the book jacket. The character of Lester Ballard slowly comes into focus through small chapters and short glimpses of his life. Some of these glimpses are from the point of view of a local deputy in the manner of county gossip while other chapters are told from an omniscient and unknown narrator. Although described as, "[a] child of God much like yourself perhaps," Lester is lost and depraved and we follow his further descent throughout the rest of the book. Without giving much of the plot away, there is some murder and necrophelia, and I just read that McCarthy based this novel on real events that took place in Tennessee while he lived there.

Like all of McCarthy's books I've read so far, I found Child of God unforgettable. McCarthy has a unique and creative way of turning a phrase and describing a setting, adding something extra to the storyline. A number of times I stopped and re-read a sentence or paragraph, marveling at the construction and words. So far, I have preferred McCarthy's books that have some ray of light cutting through all the darkness. The Road is still my favorite of his, but All My Pretty Horses also had some admirable characters and hope in it, even though they were also both kind of heartbreaking. I couldn't find much hope or optimism in Child of God, just a bleak view of mankind. I still very much appreciated the book, but that's why I need a break between reading McCarthy books. I couldn't take reading them all at once.

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