Thursday, January 06, 2011

Damnation Falls by Edward Wright

Protagonist: Randall Wilkes
Setting: Pilgrim’s Rest, Tennessee
Rating: 4.5

Randall Wilkes has returned to his small hometown of Pilgrim's Rest after journalistic disgrace in Chicago. With no job, he agrees to write a biography for his friend, the former Gov. Sonny McMahan. But those plans soon go awry after Sonny's mother, Faye, and her caretaker are found dead by Randall -- Faye at Damnation Falls.

Before her death, Faye, who had dementia, had uttered what seemed gibberish to Sonny about her husband, Blue, who disappeared years ago, and the bones of Civil War soldiers recently found nearby. But when the gibberish starts to make some sense, Randall abandons the book project for his own investigation.

Wright's novel falls into the "Southern gothic" heading, with plenty of family secrets, damaged father-son relationships and a small town with a local legend that may or may not be true. It's a well-told tale about the nature of truth, trust and redemption. As my first read of 2011, it's set a high standard. I hope all my other books this year are as compelling.

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