Author Jon Clinch
Publisher Random House
Publication Date July 6, 2010
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Following up Finn, his much-heralded and prize-winning debut whose voice evoked “the mythic styles of his literary predecessors . . . William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy and Edward P. Jones” (San Francisco Chronicle), Jon Clinch returns with Kings of the Earth, a powerful and haunting story of life, death, and family in rural America.
The edge of civilization is closer than we think.
It’s as close as a primitive farm on the margins of an upstate New York town, where the three Proctor brothers live together in a kind of crumbling stasis. They linger like creatures from an older, wilder, and far less forgiving world—until one of them dies in his sleep and the other two are suspected of murder.
Told in a chorus of voices that span a generation, Kings of the Earth examines the bonds of family and blood, faith and suspicion, that link not just the brothers but their entire community.
Vernon, the oldest of the Proctors, is reduced by work and illness to a shambling shadow of himself. Feebleminded Audie lingers by his side, needy and unknowable. And Creed, the youngest of the three and the only one to have seen anything of the world (courtesy of the U.S. Army), struggles with impulses and accusations beyond his understanding. We also meet Del Graham, a state trooper torn between his urge to understand the brothers and his desire for justice; Preston Hatch, a kindhearted and resourceful neighbor who’s spent his life protecting the three men from themselves; the brothers’ only sister, Donna, who managed to cut herself loose from the family but is then drawn back; and a host of other living, breathing characters whose voices emerge to shape this deeply intimate saga of the human condition at its limits.
The novel is told from various points of view flashing back to their childhood in the 30s to 1990 with the murder in question. Through this, the reader grasps a better understanding for the boys, leading to what could have been the motive and that Audie and Creed were victims themselves.
I have mixed feelings for this book, it had a very interesting plot and grew more familiar with the characters through the flash-backing, but seemed to stay in the past a little too long and would have preferred a little more focus on the crime in question. There was also a nephew, Tom who played a large part in the novel. Tom, was a pot dealer growing his crop on his uncle’s property, and besides allowing his uncle to smoke marijuana to ease his pain was very self-centered. Unfortunately, this relative took up a large chunk of the story and really could have done without.
Kings of the Earth was beautifully written with the flow between narrators and decades blending easily from one telling to the next. Even though I went into it think it would be more along the lines of a true crime novel, was a little more fictionalized than I would have thought or liked, but it was still a very intriguing read.