“Ever since Pa hit him in the head with the two-by-four, Earl had lived with blinders.”
If you can read that opening line and not be curious about what comes after it, check your pulse, because there’s a good chance you are already dead. As for me, I was drawn to it immediately, and I thank Net Galley and Matador Publishing for the review copy. This book is for sale now.
When we meet Earl, the year is 1921 (although occasionally, we skip forward to 1970.) Earl is in the courthouse watching his father’s trial:
‘I di’nt fornicate with no donkey. Es ist eine dirty lie!’ From the back of the darkly paneled room, he feels his pa’s rage like a ground tremor rippling its way through the crowd the crowd to the spot where he sits, surrounded by family. Well, except for Rose. She’s up front in a special seat…
‘And what about the other charge, Mr. Hahn? Is it true your daughter, Rose, is carrying your child?’
Boom. So right in the first chapter, you can plainly see that if you are someone that needs to know about triggers before reading a novel, this may not be your book. And that’s a shame, because the quality of the writing is phenomenal, from the riveting opening line, all the way to the last.
Earl’s pa does, in fact, go to jail; even if he wasn’t guilty as sin (and of it,) which he clearly is, everyone in town hates him with an abiding passion, most of all his wife and ten children.
“There wasn’t a man within a hundred miles of Sampson County who would stand up for Reinhardt Hahn.”
It is unusual for me to include so many quotes in a review, but as you can see, the writing is so clear, strong, and resonant that I cannot do it justice any other way.
As the title and first line suggest, the story is Earl’s, and we follow him through the remainder of his childhood and adolescence. At its end, I am thunderstruck when I read the author’s note explaining that the whole story is based on the truth. Earl was her grandmother’s brother; Reinhardt Hahn, or “Pa,” was her great-grandfather.
Friends, this is easily one of the best novels to come out of 2022, and I am convinced that the only reason it isn’t parked on the New York Times bestseller list is because it was self-published, and therefore it didn’t receive the kind of publicity that a major publisher could have provided.
I won’t say more; to do that, I’d have to fish out some more quotes, and they are even better when read in context. Highly recommended; D.S. Getson is an author to watch.