Merle Drown does a phenomenal job creating quirky characters that the reader can reach out and touch. His use of dialogue creates vivid scenes. This story is rural New Hampshire. I grew up there and I swear as sure as I'm typing this; I know these people. I am an avid reader and I have seen expertly crafted characters and plotting many times...but Mr. Drown is a true master. You will read this story and you too will swear that you have met or known these people if you have been anywhere in rural New England. Give this hidden gem a go around...You'll thank me. There are a few copies left here on PBS. He has written an earlier novel called "Plowing up a Snake." You'll have to hunt for that one. After reading this, you WILL hunt for it. Try this one first!
"If I could get Pauline to see daylight, get my kids settled, and pay off my debts, why, we could be living in the suburbs of heaven," Jim Hutchins thinks in a uncharacteristically optimistic moment from Merle Drown's second novel. But he isn't getting anywhere near heaven anytime soon--not even its suburbs, not even its commercial strip. Considering the many obstacles standing between Jim and heaven (the tax man after him, his wife Pauline mired in grief over their drowned daughter, another daughter turning tricks for booze money, one son in and out of jail and the other son thinking a snake has hatched in his head), he might as well be writing postcards from the fiery pit. What's more, while Jim suspects his brother-in-law Emory Holler has murdered his sister, he knows his wife Pauline has been dancing in her altogether for Emory. Finally, there's a panty thief terrorizing their rural New Hampshire town, and somehow, you just know he's going to make an appearance before the novel's end.
All things considered, Jim Hutchins is a kind of Down East Job, though he wastes little time picking scabs or cursing God. Jim's a man of action, not reflection, and so the book begins with a shotgun and ends with an inferno, with comedy and tragedy battling it out in the pages between. What keeps all this from turning into an episode of Jerry Springer is Drown's black, biting wit and his prose, which like the characters themselves is both colorful and coiled tight as a spring. (The police stick to Tommy Hutchins like "straw to a sweaty neck"; Jim gets mad but stays "sober as a cold chisel.") If the concluding reversal comes about a trifle suddenly, well, there are greater crimes in this world--crimes that one of the Hutchins clan is sure to commit if you just give them a chance. --Mary Park
Reviewer: lvkleydorff (CT. USA) - See all my reviews
Speak of a dysfunctional family. Wow! Meet Jim and Pauline Hutchins and their children, nephews and assorted other relatives. They find trouble where was none before. And when you think nothing else could possibly go wrong, another can of worms open up. The Book of Job is a children's tale by comparison. All this gets to the point where, unfortunately, it becomes very funny. It sounds like a story out of some Kentucky holler and not like prim, staid and silent New England.
I very much admire the author for his incredible gift of imagination. He wrote a wonderful book.