the devil all the time – donald ray pollock

The Devil All the Time

We read this as part of our Book Club.  We are given the choice fo three to go to a vote, and I actually voted for this as it sounded right up my street – a bit nasty, a bit gory, with some interesting characters.

The blurb says that “…Donald Ray Pollock has written a novel that marries the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O’Connor at her most haunting.”  Sounds good, right?

Covering a period from the end of WWII to the 60s in Ohio and West Virginia, this book reveals a rather odd cast of characters who all somehow interlink.

Carl & Sandy are an odd husband & wife serial killing team, her brother is a crooked sheriff, Willard Russell can’t stop his beloved wife from dying a long agonising death from cancer no matter how many sacrifices he makes and preacher Ray & his cripple-sidekick Theodore fall our over a woman.

I found it really hard to get into this book.  I kept feeling like half-stories had been told, and I seemed to be rushed through what turned out to be mainly just background knowledge for later characters.  The trouble was, some of those stories felt quite interesting and unexplored and I couldn’t see why I was being rushed along so much.

Just as you started to understand a character, somehow they were removed from the main story with a suddenness that I found quite jarring.

I can’t say that I honestly enjoyed the book until about 90% of the way through, and then, just as it seemed that it had more to offer, it finished.  It left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

I was expecting a real shock-factor, and there was only one line that was particularly shocking, and yet it was written in a way that never made it seem that gross, and I almost thought “Oh yeah, they’re the serial killers” without thinking much about what they were actually doing.  the serial-killing was only a small aspect of their relationship, and teh characters seemd so 2-dimensional that I don’t think should be compared to Natural Born Killers at all.

It was an interesting enough read, but not particularly memorable characters or scenes (I finished it a couple of weeks ago and was strugglign to remember a lot of it!).  I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t expected as much!


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