Donald Ray Pollock produces yet another brilliant book with The Heavenly Table: a bleak, sordid story of poverty, violence, and misery, but with a sliver of wistful hope so slender, it's just barely within reach.
The Jewett brothers stumble into outlaw-hood (almost against their better judgment), but embrace the role once they have it. After their father dies and an unfortunate kink in their plans occurs, they try to make a desperate run for Canada from the deep south. Hunted by the law and a host of laymen hungry for the reward money, the Jewetts maneuver through one dark crisis after another. Snatching the opportunity to rest for a few days, the brothers hole up in a tiny town and relax — perhaps a bit too much.
Despite what your head knows to be true, your heart deceives you into empathy for these lost boys. This whole business of making readers fall in love with characters they would usually find repugnant is some sort of alchemy, or chemistry, or magic. Whatever it is, Pollock's got it in spades.
The last 75 pages of this book were so harrowing, I vacillated between abject fear of what I knew was about to happen, and an insistent urge to turn another page.
The "heavenly table" of the title is the reward their father is counting upon after death: a table filled with a never-ending abundance of delicious food, a blessing he can never find on earth. A look at the consequences and effects of unrelenting poverty, absent parents, bullying, racism, pure evil, narcissism, and moral bankruptcy, The Heavenly Table is a distillation of all that is ugly within the human race, and Pollock is your tour guide to Hell. Whatever you do, do not miss this book — it is a mesmerizing read. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.
It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?
In the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre's literary masters.
"A darkly comic gorefest by a gifted writer." Kirkus Reviews
"The Heavenly Table is a ferociously gothic ballad about desperate folks with improbable dreams and scant means. It is potent and chimeric, dank, violent, swamped in tragedy and funny as hell." Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid's Version and Winter's Bone
"Think of The Heavenly Table as an antic, shambolic, guilty pleasure. Pollock's prose is compulsively readable and often very funny." Booklist
"Set against the backdrop of America s involvement in WWI and the rise of motorized and electrical technology, Pollock's gothic, relentless imagination seduces readers into a fertile time in America s history, exploring the chaos, wonder, violence, sexuality, and ambition of a nation on the cusp of modernity and the outmoded notion of redemption in a world gone to hell." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
About the Author
Donald Ray Pollock, recipient of the 2009 PEN/Bingham Fellowship, made his literary debut in 2008 with the critically acclaimed story collection, Knockemstiff. He worked as a laborer at the Mead Paper Mill in Chillicothe, Ohio, from 1973 to 2005. He holds an MFA from Ohio State University. His work has appeared in, among other publications, Epoch, Granta, and the New York Times.