Saturday, October 8, 2022

Beasts of the Earth

Beasts of the Earth by James Wade
10/11/22; 350 pages
Blackstone Publishing

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 heartbreaking ending.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of  Blackstone Publishing via NetGalley.

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