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Kings of the Earthby Jon Clinch
Synopses & Reviews
Following up Finn, his much-heralded and prize-winning debut whose voice evoked "the mythic styles of his literary predecessors . . . William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy and Edward P. Jones" (San Francisco Chronicle), Jon Clinch returns with Kings of the Earth, a powerful and haunting story of life, death, and family in rural America.
The edge of civilization is closer than we think.
It's as close as a primitive farm on the margins of an upstate New York town, where the three Proctor brothers live together in a kind of crumbling stasis. They linger like creatures from an older, wilder, and far less forgiving world — until one of them dies in his sleep and the other two are suspected of murder.
Told in a chorus of voices that span a generation, Kings of the Earth examines the bonds of family and blood, faith and suspicion, that link not just the brothers but their entire community.
Vernon, the oldest of the Proctors, is reduced by work and illness to a shambling shadow of himself. Feebleminded Audie lingers by his side, needy and unknowable. And Creed, the youngest of the three and the only one to have seen anything of the world (courtesy of the U.S. Army), struggles with impulses and accusations beyond his understanding. We also meet Del Graham, a state trooper torn between his urge to understand the brothers and his desire for justice; Preston Hatch, a kindhearted and resourceful neighbor who's spent his life protecting the three men from themselves; the brothers' only sister, Donna, who managed to cut herself loose from the family but is then drawn back; and a host of other living, breathing characters whose voices emerge to shape this deeply intimate saga of the human condition at its limits.
"In Clinch's multilayered, pastoral second novel (after Finn), a death among three elderly, illiterate brothers living together on an upstate New York farm raises suspicions and accusations in the surrounding community. After their beloved mother, Ruth, dies, Audie, considered mentally 'fragile,' is devastated, but goes on tending to the Carversville farm with his brothers Vernon and Creed. When Vernon, frail at 60 and not under a doctor's care, dies in his bed with evidence of asphyxiation, Creed is interrogated by troopers, along with Audie, the brother closest to Vernon. Family histories and troubles are divulged in short chapters by a cacophony of characters speaking in first person. Secrets and hidden alliances are revealed: Vernon's nephew, Tom, grew and sold marijuana, which the family used medicinally; the brothers endured painful, bloody haircuts administered by their father. Alongside the police troopers' investigation, each player contributes his own personal perspectives and motivations, including allusions to homosexual behavior. Inspired by the Ward brothers (of the 1992 documentary My Brother's Keeper), Clinch explores family dynamics in this quiet storm of a novel that will stun readers with its power. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"To read a book by Jon Clinch is to enter an emotional mineshaft, a place where the darkness is profound and menacing yet lures you on with the promise of untold treasure. Like Finn, Clinch's stunning debut,Kings of the Earth is blunt and brutal yet beautifully told, a classic tale of family kinship twisted askew. It is a fine fable as well, leaving in its wake the resonance of a modern ballad — more Waits than Springsteen — about the fate of America's rural outback." Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and winner of the National Book Award
"Kings of the Earth becomes a story that is not told but lived, a cry from the heart of the heart of the country...unsentimental but deeply felt, unschooled but never less than lucid. Never mawkish, Clinch's voice never fails to elucidate and, finally, to forgive, even as it mourns." Robert Goolrick, The Washington Post
"[W]riting so vibrant that you feel the bite of a northern wind, smell the rankness of dissipated lives and experience the heart-tug of watching tenuous lives play out their last inches of thread." Los Angeles Times
"[H]aunting and sorrowful....Told from the voices of family, friends and law enforcement from the 1930s through the 1990s, Kings of the Earth is a family saga that is not easy to read and even harder to forget." BookReporter.com
"[An] ambitious, troubling drama that offers its own alarming revelations about the human animal, about family, about the wafer-thin surface of civilization." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Kings of the Earth is the product of a truly inspired pairing. By applying Faulkner's pointillism and stream-of-consciousness to the Upstate Gothic, Jon Clinch delivers a rich, involving yarn. As one character says: 'Out here there is no such thing as a main road....Everything winds.'” Stewart O'Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster
Told in a chorus of voices that spans a generation, Kings of the Earth examines the bonds of family and blood, faith and suspicion, that link not just three brothers but their entire community.
About the Author
Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Jon Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive. Teaching and advertising took him south to the suburbs of Philadelphia for many years, and only with the publication of Finn, his first novel, was he able to return to the kind of rural surroundings he'd loved from the start: This time, in the Green Mountains of Vermont. He is married to novelist Wendy Clinch, and they have one daughter.
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