Father and Son
By Larry Brown
Completed September 15, 2011
Dirty, raw, gritty – and that just barely scrapes the surface of Larry Brown’s book, Father and Son. I don’t mind the dirt and the grit, but I must confess, this book was more than I can handle.
Glen Davis spent three years in jail for killing a young boy while he was driving drunk. He got early parole, and as Glen returns to his small hometown in 1968 Mississippi, you can tell trouble’s brewing. Glen’s one of those types who thinks the world is always against him – and that anything bad that happens to Glen (real or perceived) must be met with swift and cruel retribution.
So, within a short time of his return, Glen commits double homicide, seeking revenge on a man who offered to buy his girlfriend a drink (three years ago). Then he rapes a woman who flirted with him (she deserved it, you see). Finally, upon learning that his girlfriend broke up with him so she could date the sheriff, Glen kidnaps the sheriff’s mom, ties her up and rapes her too.
Mix in a lot of beer, whiskey, cigarettes and animal cruelty – and you get a less than favorable view of Southern life. I fear it fits the stereotype a little too much. Sure, there were some upstanding characters, but Glen’s crimes overshadow it all.
As Brown writes about the characters and their pasts, he starts to paint a picture of Glen’s youth – the child of a drunken, cheating father and a mother who complained to her son about his father’s misdeeds. We also learn about the death of Glen’s brother in a gun accident. Indeed, Glen’s young life was not an easy one, and Brown keeps pressing on his relationship with his mother as an important influence in his life – as if she had, in some way, caused him to be such an evildoer. I object to this position. Glen was a sociopath. While his mom may be guilty of bad mothering, no amount of good parenting could have cured him. He was evil to the soul.
Larry Brown writes with sparse prose and is fearless about his stories. If you like the styles of Cormac McCarthy, Jon Clinch or Robert Olmstead, then give Larry Brown a try. Be forewarned, though, the Father and Son is like a punch in the gut. ( )