Beasts of the Earth by James Wade
10/11/22; 350 pages
Beasts of the Earth by James Wade is very highly recommended literary fiction.
Two timelines are followed in the novel. First, in 1987 Harlen LeBlanc is an employee of the grounds department at Carter Hills High School in Texas. He is a quiet man who keeps to himself and his routines. When his coworker and recent high school graduate, Gene Thomas, is discovered holding the dead body of a former girlfriend, he is charged with her murder. LeBlanc is certain that Gene is not responsible and he sets out to find the guilty party.
In Louisiana in 1965, 12 year-old Michael Fischer tries his best
to protect his younger sister and survive with his fanatical
mother. He steals from trap lines in the bayou to provide for his
family. Then his father, a child rapist and murderer, returns from
serving his prison sentence. His father's evil actions eventually
result in Michael fleeing and finding help and safety with an
older man who is dying, but more importantly is a kind and good
man who rescues him. He teaches Michael to be good and care even
when the world around you is bad and uncaring.
This is a beautifully written, descriptive novel that skillfully
intertwines the two stories in the alternate time lines. The
narratives in the two timelines are both tightly plotted and
create suspense in events that are surely coming in both story
lines. Although crimes and investigations occur, Beasts of the
Earth is not a procedural or investigative novel. It is a
pensive, thoughtful novel reflecting on what it means to be a
truly good person in a world full of wickedness and corruption.
Even in the most forlorn and bleak moments, there is still a small
measure of hope and, perhaps, redemption for the characters.
Beasts of the Earth is a visceral, disturbing tale that
explores polarizing themes, including hate and love, fate and free
will, trauma and goodness. It poetically yet starkly confronts how
to deal with evil and guilt all while moving steadfastly toward a