Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hereafter Gang - by Neal Barrett, Jr - Where everthing costs a nickel

4.5 of 5 Stars.   Review copy

Originally published in 1991, Barrett's novel, The Hereafter Gang remains fresh.  A bold tour de force, the work is much like an Almond Joy or Mounds candy bar.  It's indescribably delicious.

Kudos to David Wilson at Crossroad Press Publishing for getting works like this back to the public via ebooks.  Although, I've not been able to sort out who is responsible for the cover of this version, special props to them for capturing the spirit of the book.

The Hereafter Gang is the story of Douglas Hoover and his journey to the other side.  Only he doesn't quite realize that's what is happening.  His marriage to Erlene is about done and he's had it with his job and he just takes off with his cat, Mousebreath (what a great name for a cat).

There is a stream of consciousness feel to Barrett's storytelling.  Having grown up in the Nazarene Church, I found his character Doug's take on the denomination rather intriguing.  "He has other word problems linked with religion.  He wonders about the Nazarene Church. It seems unlikely they are in any way connected to the Nazis.  Still, these are the only two words he knows that begin with these letters."  All those years I spent as a Nazarene and that thought never once crossed my mind.

It strikes me that The Hereafter Gang is somewhat like a twisted, bizzarro-world version of one of Garrison Keiller's Tales From Lake Wobegone, filled with gem after gem like this, "Doug had to choose between a Nehi Orange and a Grapette.  An agonizing decision.  He seldom slept Friday nights before a game.  He loved Grapette, but the Nehi Orange was much bigger.  Grapette came in tiny little bottles you could finish in two gulps.  He knew what he wanted which was two Grapettes.  He had more sense than that.  His dad would blow a fuse whether the Hoover Wolverines won or not.  Jesus Christ, you want two?  Why there's kids in Europe'd likely give their left nut for just one.  I don't even think they make it you want to know.  What do you think of that Greedy Gus?  So Doug didn't ask.  He got Nehi Orange and hated his father for a week."

If you've read this blog before, you probably know my preference for reading material leans toward horror, but a good read is a good read and The Hereafter Gang is good and much much more.  John Clute called it one of the great American novels.

The Hereafter Gang is available from Crossroad Press and Amazon.com.

Strongly recommended.

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