Thursday, July 25, 2013
Edge of Dark Water - by Joe R. Lansdale - Reminiscent of Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn with more of an edge
I totally enjoyed getting lost in the world Joe R. Lansdale has created in Edge of Dark Water. Set during the Great depression in East Texas, the story is about Sue Ellen Wilson and her friends Jinx Smith, a colored girl, and Terry Thomas who is considered a "sissy" by his friends, who set out on a jouney to take the ashes of their friend, May Lynn Baxter, to California.
May Lynn's body was found by Sue Ellen and her Daddy one day when they were fishing and I use the term fishing loosely since we learn in the novel's opening line, "That summer, Daddy went from telephoning and dynamiting fish to poisoning them with green walnuts."
Having read a number of excellent reviews for Edge of Dark Water I expected it to be good, I just didn't relize it would be this good. Sorry I didn't get around to reading it sooner.
Lansdale is a wonderful story-teller and I found this particular tale reminiscent of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. If you found those American classics offensive, the same might be said of this work, but I thought the story was honestly told in the language of the times. Kudos to Joe R. Lansdale for doing that.
And then there's the prose. Lansdale can paint a picture with words with the best of writers. Like, "To top things off nicely, it began to lightning in the east, stitching up the pit-black sky like a seamstress with bright yellow thread."
There were times I found myself squirming from the gruesomeness of a scene and other times laughing at what one of the characters had said or done. Jinx was my favorite. Oppressed and often put down by the white folks around her, she had a spunkiness which often made me smile. Case in point, "'She's still a human being,' Mama said. 'God makes all human beings, no matter who they are.' 'Well, he needs to find him a better mold,' Jinx said, 'cause some of these he's making ain't worth the waste of material.'"
If you're like me and didn't get around to reading Edge of Dark Water when it first came out, I'd like to suggest you move it to the top of your To Be Read pile or purchase a copy today and read it right away. Published by Mulholland books, it's available in a variety of formats just about everywhere.