I Am the Light of This World

Algonquin. Nov. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781643751795. $27. F
Critically acclaimed Parker pens his eighth novel (after Prairie Fever), a sad tale that opens in early-1970s Smyrna, TX. Teenager Earl Boudreaux leads a lonely existence among an assortment of relatives, sustained by his love of blues. His life gets worse when new-in-town Tina tricks him into driving her to Austin to visit her mother at a mental institution. Gullible Earl, unaware that her name isn’t Tina and that her well-off parents live in Houston, follows her into the dark, drug-laden side of Austin. After awaking from a drug-induced blackout, Earl can’t find Tina or a mysterious companion named Tom, and his car trunk is full of blood. In his own defense, he desperately tries to remember more, but even his faithful lawyer Arthur can’t save him—it’s East Texas, Tina’s parents are wealthy, and innocent Earl doesn’t have a chance against a charge of first-degree murder. When he’s released from prison 40 years later, he heads for the West Coast, hoping for a break even as his memories weigh heavily.
VERDICT A heart-wrenching story compounded by misguided decisions and bad luck, Earl’s life could form the basis of the blues songs he and Arthur so loved. For most fiction readers.
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