Saturday, April 18, 2009
"Father and Son" Larry Brown
This story is the reverse of The Prodigal Son. In this tale, it isn't a repentant son who returns asking forgiveness of his father but a rebellious son, fresh from prison for vehicular homicide.
Bobby Blanchard is the sheriff in this story which takes place in Mississippi in the mid 1960's. It was Bobby who caught Glen Davis when he killed the young boy with his car. To add to the drama, Bobby is in love with Glen's old girlfriend, Jewel, the mother of Glen's illegitimate son. Think of Gary Cooper walking down Main Street in High Noon and you have the picture of Blanchard.
Glen's mother has died as the story opens and Glen arrives in town. He is a vicious drunk who treats everyone with hatred. This includes his father, Vernon, who is a WWII vet who came home disabled.
Glen is only in town one day when he takes Vernon's rifle and robs and kills a local bar owner with whom he had a grudge.
Brown has written a compelling novel describing an aspect of rural Mississippi, in the Oxford area of his fellow Mississippian, William Faulkner. The similarities in the descriptions of the poor, the numerous misfortunes that befall them and their acceptance of tragedy as a way of life are not only like Faulkner but also of Steinbeck. It was almost as if some of these characters were descendants of the Oklahomans of "The Grapes of Wrath."
The history leading up to the start of the story is that Vernon had an affair with Bobby's mother but only found she was pregnant after he was drafted and couldn't get leave due to the war. Bobby's mother, Mary married another man but he was killed in the war. Vernon married Glen's mother, Emma when she became pregnant and Emma had a hatred for Mary, convinced that Vernon was still having an affair with her. Emma passes this hatred on to Glen.
In short, this is a superbly written story with tragic and heroic figures at crossroads. Once finished, the story of Glen and his half brother Bobby will stay in the memory of the reader for a long time.