This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hello Down There by Michael Parker

I started another novel, American Salvage. It was a nominee for the National Book Foundation's 2009 National Book Awards. I hated it. OK. Maybe not hate, but I didn't like it. It is supposed to be a novel of short stories. They were short but made no sense. No ending. The first one, OK. I'll give you one. The second one or third one, I can't remember which, had an almost ironic ending that I thought would give hope to the rest. But the third or fourth one blew that hope out of the water.

It made me feel daft: what am I missing? It was nominee, for buddha's sake! And the reviews on Amazon (all seven of them at this writing) has nothing but five stars and praise for it. Maybe I didn't give it enough pages. I should have read on? But my goal now is to not waste anymore of my precious time on books that are not satisfying my brain. This was one of them.

So I decided to stick to what I know and I know that I like Michael Parker. If You Want Me to Stay was a fave of mine from 2007 and I read Virginia Lovers this year and enjoyed it as well.

What I have learned about Parker's 'style', after reading this one, is that he captures the voice of his characters, whereby you know them so well. And it's not just one, it's several personas. And they are unforgettable and linger, at least in my mind, for days, weeks even.

They linger too because there is tragedy involved in his story lines.

That is what happened with this novel.

Eureka becomes a young girl we get to know after a few chapters. We meet Edwin first, briefly, three years earlier. In the "now", we meet Eureka's dad and his co-worker, the pharmacist. We also meet Eureka's younger brother, the "talker" of the family.

Edwin, a son of the wealthy family of Trent, NC, has quite a torrid past. But "now" he is a morphine-addict. And the pharmacist has no choice but to provide, illegally, morphine because the place he works at is indebted to Edwin's family.

Eureka is young and quite naive. Her path crosses Edwin's, who quickly falls for Eureka for no apparent reason. This part of the story, as disturbing as it might be for some, is what I loved and craved. A broken man who finds hope in this girl.

And so a love story begins and Edwin seeks to change his addiction, with the help of the pharmacist that he so dislikes. They go off, to Kentucky, to find help to kick the morphine habit. He brings along Eureka, the girl responsible for his change, and a driver.

I loved, when the doctor at the Kentucky hospital asks him why he wants to kick the morphine habit. Edwin replies with something along the lines of 'i found something stronger'. The doc replies with "Heroin?" And Edwin says 'Add an "e" to the end of that".

All for her, without really knowing her.

It's a love story some of us disturbed people enjoy: a woman who is so amazing that she changes you for the better.

The tragedy comes in soon after Edwin is sober.

The pharmacist, who for years has strived to help Edwin break his habit, decides that Edwin's past is too awful for young Eureka and plots a plan to ruin him and draw him back to morphine.

And with each page of this plot taking place, my heart broke. For Edwin, for Eureka, who we never really know is truly in love with Edwin, but he is her ticket out of Trent, NC...a place she wants to leave so badly.

When I read great books, I love to research them about the author (which I have done at every reading of his previous books) and about the storyline. I have since found that there is a second part to this novel, Town Without Rivers. It is essentially the sequel to this one. I can't wait to read it.

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