A North Carolina friend to whom I recommended Deep South wanted me to look at Larry Brown’s Father and Son. She said it gave her insight into how some of the families in her area of the semi-rural south, where she had a long career as an educator, came to be who they are. If so, There are some grim realities down there. However, local as the dysfunction might be for the purposes of this single novel, it’s also I’m sure an unfortunate universal reality beyond the borders of the Southern U.S.
Glen’s just out of prison after serving three years for the drunk-driving killing of a young boy. He’s full of more anger and resentment than a penful of Timothy McVeigh’s. He’s a natural expert at laying off the blame, so he’s got a number of scores to settle in the small community he’s come home to. Brown gives us a younger brother to whom we can compare Glen. They are close enough in age to share parenting and backgrounds. Unlike his brother, “Puppy” is not particularly mad at anyone, though he’s anything but that of a model citizen. He’s pretty fond of cards and beer, to the detriment of his kids and wife.
Glen has a kid as well, and the mother wants him back in the house. She’s wary, but she wants to make it work. Glen can charm when he wants to, so we see that softer, cheery side of him as well. Still, he’s not ready for anything like responsibility. What he’s ready for is some good old fashioned binge drinking and vengeance. And off he goes.
I don’t like to describe story lines much beyond this point because it kind of takes oxygen out of a tale to know everything beforehand on first reading. Suffice it to say that the relationships in Glen’s and his father’s family are complex, bordering on incestuous, and make for quite a cast on which Glen can work his criminal instincts. And it’s perhaps the insight into the criminal instinct which is the most significant thematic element of Brown’s novel. What would make a person do something like that? We ask that all time, don’t we? Sometimes you can suggest an answer, more often not. But Father and Son will give you a shot at a response and a rousing story beside.