by Jeffrey Lent
I'd never heard of this book or it's author before I bought it from the bookstore. I liked the title and the cover and the description on the back sounded interesting. At home I looked up some reviews on Amazon. Most were positive and the few negative reviews said it was a disappointment compared to Lent's other works which were historical fiction, which this one is not. But one thing that every review said was the writing was wonderful, poetic even. "I'm in for a treat," I thought as I pushed aside all other books on the TBR stack and dug right in.
The writing is terrible. Of all the things wrong with this book, and there are many, the writing is what bothered me the most. Jeffrey Lent is being compared to Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx, and Faulkner. One review on the cover says "the best book to date by one of the two or three most gifted American novelists since William Faulkner." Are they kidding? Surely they must be kidding!
What bothered me about the writing was the leaving out of words. Sometimes, in an attempt to make the dialogue sound authentic a writer will write how people talk and I am fine with that if it is done well. This technique is used throughout the book, not just in the dialogue but the whole novel and it was not done well in my opinion. An example: in real life people will say "How you been?" with the word have being understood. Lent takes this one step further and simply writes "You been?" Every character speaks in this manner and it's done throughout the narrative. Every paragraph is missing at least one word that makes understanding difficult. I can't tell you how many times I had to start and stop and reread sections because one word was missing. It didn't add to the atmosphere; it distracted from the story.
Another problem I had was with the bizarre use of (or lack there of) punctuation. He should have used three times as many commas as he did. Sometimes he used periods when they were not needed, usually in the place of a comma. Why did the editor allow this?
Added to all of this the story isn't very good. I hated most of the characters. The protagonist is a self-indulgent idiot. The women all have filthy mouths and no class. There are scenes that served no purpose. The story moves very slowly and is predictable. There is heavy drug use, sex, abortions, a man hitting a woman, unnecessary adultery(meaning it didn't serve to further the storyline) and tons of bad language. A lot of this stuff I can handle if it is an integral part of the story(like in Breathing Out the Ghost) but this book is a mess. The only reason I kept reading to the end is because I paid $15 for it. Oh well. At least now I can move on to something better, and anything has got to be better that A Peculiar Grace.