I snagged Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock at the local public library because it is the work of first-time author Donald Pollock, an author about my age which heightened my curiosity. I sweep our library’s new book section plucking anything done by first-timers. First books are THE best. They are full of decades-worth of material burning to be released. This little bomb is no exception.
Pollock dropped out of high school at seventeen, worked in a meat packing plant then spent thirty-two years working in a paper mill. He earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Ohio State in 2009. I find this impressive considering he is from Knockemstiff, Ohio where the story takes place. I couldn’t wait to get the pages turning and it did not disappoint.
The book is a collection of eighteen stories which take place from the sixties to the nineties. We meet a parade of characters who reappear as the book progresses. The people are funny but pathetically dysfunctional. They are a hodge-podge of ignorant, poverty-riddled, drug addict, rapist, crippled dirt bags.
The line I remember most is that of Big Bernie who knows he has seen the prime years of his life. He spends his days caring for his son who is severely retarded due to a drug overdose. Big Bernie is big because he is addicted to greasy fast food. He craves it and indulges though he knows he shouldn’t. He says, “Besides, I’m beginning to believe that anything I do to extend my life is just going to be outweighed by the agony of living it.”
I will warn you now that this book isn’t for everyone. The ‘F’ word peppers the pages and the life choices Knockemstiff residents make are the absolute worst.
On the other had, if you want a well written, unforgettably raw and funny story then grab Knockemstiff. It carries a powerful punch.
If you would like to share your thoughts on a good book you have recently read, please email your review to firstname.lastname@example.org