Beasts of the Earth

Blackstone. Oct. 2022. 350p. ISBN 9781665024082. $25.99. F
Winner of Spur and Reading the West honors for his debut, All Things Left Wild, Wade returns with another stark and chilling tale. Michael Fischer ‘s father is in prison. Life on the edge of a swamp has been hard, with an uncaring mother and a younger sister to look after, but it’s harder still when his father is released. Any childhood Michael had left, and any sense of security, ends the day his father returns. Michael tries not to anger his parents and to protect his sister, but something so awful, so unspeakable, happens that he must leave, though he will never know peace again. In a parallel narrative, Harlen LeBlanc’s life is a simple one of routine and honest work as a high school groundskeeper. He draws little attention until a student is killed on the school grounds and small-town eyes turn to his young coworker, the girl’s ex-boyfriend. Harlen sets out to clear his friend’s name, but he doesn’t think or act like other people; he’s been through too much. The two stories inevitably intertwine.
VERDICT From reptiles in the swamp hunting prey, to reptilian men, cold and calculating, beasts feature in this disturbing novel. Best for readers who don’t mind brutal if the prose is beautiful.
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